HHS Declares Public Health Emergency in Response to Novel Coronavirus


Alex Azar has declared a public health emergency in the United States in response to the 2019 novel coronavirus but says the risk to Americans remains low.

Alex Azar, Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services has signed a public health emergency declaration in response to the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-n-CoV).

“At this time, the risk to Americans remains low and we are working to keep in that way,” Azar said in a tweet. “We will continue to work to monitor, respond to, and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and ensure that Americans have the most accurate and up-to-date health and travel information.”

This news comes hours after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, announced a federal quarantine order for all 195 US citizens who were evacuated from Wuhan, China on January 29, 2020. The quarantine will last 14 days from when the citizens left China.

All individuals were screened prior to take off, monitored while on board the aircraft, screened during refueling in Anchorage, Alaska, and monitored during the remainder of the journey. The individuals were brought to March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, California, where they are being monitored for symptoms.

Under the legal order, medical staff will monitor the health of all travelers at the base. Monitoring will consist of temperature checks and observations of respiratory symptoms.

“Even if a screening test comes back negative from CDC’s laboratory results, it does not conclusively mean an individual is at no risk of developing the disease over the likely 14-day incubation period,” the CDC’s statement says.

On January 31, 2020, the US Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs released a level 4 travel advisory warning Americans not to travel to China.

“Those currently in China should consider departing using commercial means. The Department of State has requested that all non-essential US government personnel defer travel to China in light of the novel coronavirus,” the advisory states.

The statement also indicates that the Department of State has ordered the departure of all family members under the age of 21 year of US personnel currently in China. The department also warns that travelers should be “prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice.”

Several commercial airlines have already scaled back or suspended travel to China including American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Airlines, and United Airlines.

Yesterday, the World Health Organization announced that 2019-nCoV is considered a public health emergency of international concern. In announcing the declaration, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee recommended against implementing travel restrictions to China.

Thus far there are 6 confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV in the United States.

Use the Contagion® Outbreak Monitor to stay up-to-date on the latest case counts.

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