The declaration of a federal emergency to respond to a public health crisis is rare, but it has been done in a few situations like in the response to West Nile Virus. This does not mean that the federal government has now taken over coronavirus preparation and response. Additionally, the National Guard, which is authorized separately in each state, remains under the control of its governor. When it is “federalized” in an emergency, that means that salaries are assumed by the federal government. The Governor remains the commander in chief of the forces, again, a Tenth Amendment guaranteed authority.
The more we know, the better we can protect people against COVID-19. Here’s a set of the most important questions to be answered. Although we learn more about this virus every day and have some information on some of these questions, much of that data is preliminary, imprecise, or potentially inaccurate. Furthermore, answers may differ among areas and over time in the context of COVID-19. And, of course, there are other important questions, including those that will be generated by the emerging answers to these questions.
The list of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers was developed in coordination with Federal agencies and the private sector as a guide to help decision-makers within communities understand how to ensure continuity of essential functions and critical workforce as they consider COVID-related restrictions in certain communities (e.g., shelter-in-place). The list can also inform critical infrastructure community decision-making to determine the sectors, sub sectors, segments, or critical functions that should continue normal operations, appropriately modified to account for Centers for Disease Control (CDC) workforce and customer protection guidance.
Redfield said the government is “trying to stand up a national reporting mechanism that is going to put not just the CDC test, not just a public health lab test but the LabCorp test, the lab Quest test and the individual hospital lab so that we can have a single site where people can see how many tests have been done, how many test are positive.” Asked whether the CDC would ensure that every American would get access to free coronavirus testing regardless of their insurance status, Redfield replied, “I can say that we are going to do everything to make sure everybody can get the care they need… CDC is working with HHS now to see how we operationalize that.”
The Faith-Based Information Sharing & Analysis Organization has raised its threat level for religious institutions to “severe” based on the risk the coronavirus poses to house of worship. Washington, D.C., saw its first case of the coronavirus on March 7 when rector Timothy Cole at Christ Church Georgetown, an Episcopal historic parish in D.C., tested positive. Additional cases connected to the church have since been confirmed, with D.C. Health warning that visitors to the church between Feb. 24 and March 6 could have been exposed to the virus.
Coronavirus Indemnification: Government Should Broadly Authorize Use of P.L. 85-804 to Protect Contractors, as with Anthrax and Ebola
The Federal Government’s response to COVID-19 will depend on contractors receiving awards to combat the virus. Accepting these work scopes will heighten the risk that contractor employees will be exposed to coronavirus, which spreads quickly and appears to have a higher lethality rate than the normal flu. The potential liability to contractors from tort suits, by employees and others, cannot be estimated. Fortunately, the U.S. Government has a legal tool available to indemnify contractors that are willing to accept this important mission of defeating this deadly pathogen.
Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz told lawmakers that the service is “looking nationwide to support CDC and other frontline organizations on the medical front in terms of prevention, protecting, mitigating spread” of the coronavirus. The Coast Guard’s “number one priority is the health and safety of the American people,” Schultz said at a budget hearing Wednesday before the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation & Maritime Security.
The Department of Homeland Security clarified that the restriction applies to “most foreign nationals who have been in certain European countries at any point during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States.” Those countries include Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Many cases in the U.S. have been among American citizens who traveled to hard-hit regions such as Italy.
The world has already seen “the spillover phase,” she said, with hundreds of infections detected outside of China. “When you move into this phase of trying to slow down, that is where the social distancing becomes important, early school closures, avoidance of mass congregations, etc., etc. The goal isn’t necessarily to keep it out, because it is probably too late for that, but the goal becomes, can we slow the progression, smooth the curve, reduce the overall stress on the system? And hopefully, save lives in the process of all of that,” Gerberding said. The former CDC chief noted that “when people are infected, and how long they remain infected, is very worrisome.”
An epidemiologist specializing in outbreak detection and response told members of Congress that quarantines of passengers coming from China or banning travelers from the country will do little good to stop the spread of the coronavirus because “this virus is spreading too quickly and too silently, and our surveillance is too limited for us to truly know which countries have active transmission” and which don’t. “The virus could enter the U.S. from other parts of the world not on our restricted list, and it may already be circulating here,” Associate Professor & Senior Scholar Jennifer Nuzzo, Ph.D., from the Center for Health Security, Johns Hopkins University, told the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation at a hearing on the deadly outbreak.
The National Biodefense Strategy, a multiagency effort overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services, was issued with the goal of “a more efficient, coordinated, and accountable biodefense enterprise” established by setting up “a process to assess our capabilities and to prioritize biodefense resources and actions across the government.” The strategy, which covers biowarfare, accidental release of pathogens and naturally occurring outbreaks, “builds on lessons learned from past biological incidents to develop a more resilient and effective biodefense enterprise” including the 2001 anthrax attacks, the 2009 influenza pandemic, the 2014 Ebola epidemic, and the Zika epidemic. The GAO assessed that “challenges with planning to manage change, limited guidance and methods for analyzing capabilities, and lack of clarity about decision-making processes, roles, and responsibilities” imperiled successful implementation of the plan to protect the country from biothreats.
A collection of HSToday content on what a pandemic would bring and how the country needs to prioritize biodefense.
Human coronaviruses can sometimes cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses, such as pneumonia or bronchitis. This is more common in people with cardiopulmonary disease, people with weakened immune systems, infants, and older adults. Much is unknown about how 2019-nCoV, a new coronavirus, spreads. Current knowledge is largely based on what is known about similar coronaviruses. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS, SARS, and now with 2019-nCoV.
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub if your hands are not visibly dirty. Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub eliminates the virus if it is on your hands. When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – discard tissue immediately into a closed bin and clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. Why? Covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing prevent the spread of germs and viruses. If you sneeze or cough into your hands, you may contaminate objects or people that you touch.
Vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine, do not provide protection against the new coronavirus. The virus is so new and different that it needs its own vaccine. Researchers are trying to develop a vaccine against 2019-nCoV, and WHO is supporting their efforts. Although these vaccines are not effective against 2019-nCoV, vaccination against respiratory illnesses is highly recommended to protect your health.
The United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has produced some preliminary forecasts relating to the expected economic impacts from COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) travel bans on international air connectivity. ICAO currently reports that some 70 airlines have cancelled all international flights to/from mainland China, and that a further 50 airlines have curtailed related air operations. This has resulted in an 80% reduction of foreign airline capacity for travelers directly to/from China, and a 40% capacity reduction by Chinese airlines. Prior to the outbreak, airlines had planned to increase capacity by 9% on international routes to/from China for the first quarter of 2020 compared to 2019.
Currently, there is no vaccine to protect against it and no proven therapeutics to treat those infected, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told those gathered at WHO headquarters for the Research and Innovation Forum on novel coronavirus 2019. Appealing to participants for their scientific insight, Tedros also called for answers to many unknowns relating to the epidemic. These include the virus’s “reservoirs”, Tedros said, as well as its transmission patterns and degree of infectiousness. Other issues include which samples are best used for diagnosis and monitoring, how to manage severe cases of infection and any ethical issues that may surface relating to research requirements.
What Healthcare Personnel Should Know About Caring for Patients with Confirmed or Possible 2019-nCoV Infection
There is much to learn about the newly emerged 2019-nCoV, including how and how easily it spreads. Based on what is currently known about 2019-nCoV and what is known about other coronaviruses, spread is thought to occur mostly from person-to-person via respiratory droplets among close contacts. Close contact can occur while caring for a patient, including being within approximately 6 feet (2 meters) of a patient with 2019-n-CoV for a prolonged period of time.
“Harnessing the power of science is critical for bringing this outbreak under control,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “There are questions we need answers to, and tools we need developed as quickly as possible. WHO is playing an important coordinating role by bringing the scientific community together to identify research priorities and accelerate progress.” Experts will build on existing SARS and MERS coronavirus research and identify knowledge gaps and research priorities in order to accelerate scientific information and medical products most needed to minimize the impact of the 2019-nCoV outbreak.
More than 25 000 people across the globe have accessed real-time knowledge from WHO experts on how to detect, prevent, respond to and control the new coronavirus in the 10 days since the launch of an open online training. The learning team of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme worked with technical experts to quickly develop and publish the online course on 26 January – 4 days before the 2019-nCoV outbreak was declared a public health emergency of international concern.
OPM has convened a working group of key agencies to determine what HR guidance is needed in response to 2019-nCoV. OPM will continue to coordinate with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the agency working group to identify federal workforce impacts, direct agencies to the latest information on 2019-nCoV, and provide agencies with any necessary guidance on HR flexibilities and authorities.
Due to the threat of novel coronavirus (2019-nCov), the Department of State recently adjusted the travel advisory for China to a Level 4, meaning individuals should not travel there. Additionally, the Department of State has requested that all non-essential U.S. government personnel defer travel to China in light of the novel coronavirus. Commanders of individually affected geographic commands will be issuing specific guidance to their forces.
Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin and the National Institutes of Health have made a critical breakthrough toward developing a vaccine for the 2019 novel coronavirus by creating the first 3D atomic scale map of the part of the virus that attaches to and infects human cells. Mapping this part, called the spike protein, is an essential step so researchers around the world can develop vaccines and antiviral drugs to combat the virus. The scientific team is also working on a related viable vaccine candidate stemming from the research.
Under this EUA, the use of 2019-nCoV Real-Time RT-PCR Diagnostic Panel is authorized for patients who meet the CDC criteria for 2019-nCoV testing. Testing is limited to qualified laboratories designated by the CDC and, in the U.S., those certified to perform high complexity tests. The diagnostic is a reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test that provides presumptive detection of 2019-nCoV from respiratory secretions, such as nasal or oral swabs. A positive test result indicates likely infection with 2019-nCoV and infected patients should work with their health care provider to manage their symptoms and determine how to best protect the people around them.
The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), a component of ASPR, will provide expertise and reallocated funds to support the vaccine’s development. Sanofi will use its egg-free, recombinant DNA platform to produce a recombinant 2019 novel coronavirus vaccine candidate. The technology produces an exact genetic match to proteins of the virus. The protein’s DNA will be combined with DNA from a virus harmless to humans, and used to rapidly produce large quantities of antigen which stimulate the immune system to protect against the virus. The antigens will be separated and collected from these cells and purified to create working stocks of vaccine for advanced development.
To expedite development of vaccines that protect against the 2019 novel coronavirus, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) will expand an existing partnership with New Jersey-based Janssen Research & Development, part of Johnson & Johnson. Janssen and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), a component of ASPR, will share research and development costs and expertise to help accelerate Janssen’s investigational novel coronavirus vaccine into clinical evaluation.
The terror group has previously seized upon natural disasters as supposed proof that God is supporting them in targeting their adversaries, and also has used naturally occurring events in attack suggestions — impressing upon followers that if a natural calamity causes this much suffering, jihadists can bring about similar destruction using manmade methods. In the issue of ISIS’s al-Naba weekly newsletter released late last week, the terror group includes the coronavirus outbreak in its news briefs alongside headlines from Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.
Perhaps mindful that the global reach of the new coronavirus could also pose a threat to their members or supporters, the Islamic State is now criticizing the Chinese government for hiding the scope of coronavirus outbreak. And in another piece in the latest issue of their weekly official al-Naba newsletter, ISIS notes that while “many Muslims rushed to confirm that this epidemic is a punishment from God Almighty” for China’s widescale abuse of of the Uyghur population, “the world is interconnected” and transportation “would facilitate the transfer of diseases and epidemics.” Muslims should “seek help from God Almighty to avoid illness and keep it away from their countries,” the terror group added.