A resident of Solano County has tested positive for the Wuhan coronavirus who has no known ties to anyone who has traveled abroad, sparking new fears that there are more undetected cases in the U.S. — and marking the first documented case of a possible community transmission outside China.
The Centers for Disease Control says in a statement that "The case was detected through the U.S. public health system and picked up by astute clinicians," and the patient's point of transmission for the virus is not yet known. We only know that the person resides in Solano County and they are now being treated at a hospital in Sacramento. As the New York Times reports, per the CDC, it remains "possible the patient was exposed to a returning traveler who was infected," and Solano County — the home of Travis Air Force Base — was the arrival point for dozens of Americans who were expatriated from Wuhan and nearby parts of China by the U.S. State Department, as well as the arrival point for passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship who entered quarantine at the base last week.
"Community spread" is the term for a virus transmission that has no known origin, and this Northern California case may in fact be the first such case in the U.S.
The Times got an infectious disease specialist from Vanderbilt University, Dr. William Schaffner, on the phone, and he suggested that "Physicians are going to want to start testing everybody with a fever and a cough," in order to rule out coronavirus from some undetected source. And the new case is heightening the growing panic that a pandemic is spreading without anyone fully realizing it.
Testing for the virus still is only being done through the CDC, and the process takes several days. Testing kits distributed to California clinics have already been determined to be flawed, and new testing kits are still in the works.
Update: The Times now reports that the patient was admitted to UC Davis Medical Center last week and was not tested for Covid-19 for several days, despite the virus being a possible diagnosis. This was because the patient did not fit the CDC's existing criteria for receiving the coronavirus test. The patient had been transferred from another medical facility and was already on a ventilator.
Meanwhile, President Trump gave a press conference from the White House Wednesday evening, seemingly in response to criticism from Democratic candidates during Tuesday night's debate, in order to try to show that his administration was actively dealing with the epidemic. Just a day ago, the president was dismissing fears about the virus, and tonight he named Vice President Mike Pence to lead the nation's response to the virus, which already seems to be being led by the CDC.
"We’re very, very ready for this, for anything, whether it’s going to be a breakout of larger proportions or whether or not, we’re, you know, we’re at that very low level," Trump said.