As of yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) has officially declared the novel coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). It was only a week ago that WHO had decided to hold off on making this declaration. The reason they reconsidered was the result of there being human-to-human transmission and thousands of new cases not only in China but in other countries. The WHO’s concern is that the virus will reach countries that have healthcare systems that can’t handle a significant number of infected individuals, which means that thousands of people could die.
It’s important to note that WHO’s designation isn’t a law, but a way to offer advice to countries on ways that they can protect their citizens. It’s up to the countries of whether or not they follow it. As of today, the US has declared a public health emergency and placed a travel ban on any foreign national that has traveled to China within the past 14 days. One of the recommendations that the United States State Department has issued in response to the declaration was for Americans to not travel to China. For any American citizen returning home, they should expect to be quarantined for two weeks. This is what is happening to 195 people who’ve been evacuated from Wuhan on Wednesday. The primary objective is to prevent the spread of the coronavirus by isolating anyone who has possibly contracted it.
While there are only six cases here in the US, the White House is trying a new way to prevent the spread and deal with the coronavirus by creating a task force specifically designed to do this. The task force was created this past Wednesday. Currently, members of the task force include Robert R. Redfield (Director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention), Robert O’Brien (National Security Advisor), Matthew Pottinger (Deputy National Security Advisor), Alex Azar (United States Secretary of Health and Human Services), Stephen Biegun (United States Deputy Secretary of State), Robert Blair (Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor to the Chief of Staff), Ken Cuccinelli (Acting United States Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security), Anthony Fauci (Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases), Joe Grogan (Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council), Derek Kan (Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy in the Office of Management and Budget), Chris Liddell (Assistant to the President and White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Coordination) and Joel Szabat (Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy in the United States Department of Transportation). By including individuals from various governmental agencies, the goal of the task force is to provide a unified response across the country.