Tensions over how to contain the fast-spreading coronavirus have escalated in the United States as the country’s death toll climbed to nine and members of Congress criticized the government’s ability to increase testing fast enough to deal with the crisis.
All of the deaths have occurred in Washington state, and most were residents of a nursing home near Seattle.
Meanwhile, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Tuesday listed 108 confirmed and presumed cases in the United States.
“What is happening now in the United States may be the beginning of what is happening abroad,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the CDC, noting that in China older and sicker people are about twice as likely to become seriously ill as those who are younger and healthier.
The coronavirus chaos has sent shoppers across the country into panic-buying mode, with canned foods, disinfectants, bottled water and toilet paper are flying off store shelves.
“It has gotten crazier by the day,” said a Target employee who fulfills online orders at a store in Richmond, Va. “A lot of it is obviously panic-buying, people stocking up on eight gallons of water or 20 kinds of soups. Items are selling out immediately, as soon as they go up on shelves.”
The administration of President Donald Trump is facing growing pressure to demonstrate that it is ramping up efforts to combat the spreading coronavirus. US Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday that any American can now be tested for the virus if a doctor deems it necessary.
“We’re issuing new guidance, effective immediately, from the CDC that will make it clear that any clinician on health authority can administer the test,” Pence told reporters at the White House.
Pence’s announcement confused some public health officials, since physicians were already allowed to order testing. His comments also raised doubts about whether the Trump administration can rapidly accelerate the production of testing kits, as well as the cost of getting tested.