By: Gregg Marcus
The Coronavirus has a lot of people concerned, even though health authorities here in the United States have said that the numbers of those infected thus far are negligible. Still, those concerns are translating into actions that some wish could have been avoided.
For example, taxi drivers across New York City are reportedly reluctant to pick up Chinese passengers for fear of coming into contact with the disease.
As one cab driver told the New York Post, “I feel bad about it, but when I see Chinese passengers, I just go. I don’t pick up any one Chinese. I’m scared. I don’t want to get the disease.” An Uber driver added, “If I drop off somebody in Flushing (a community with a large Chinese population), I deactivate the app. I don’t know who has it… I worry for myself, my family and my passengers.”
While caution is warranted, officials say, fear is not. Imported cases of COVID-19 in travelers have been detected in the U.S. Person-to-person spread of COVID-19 also has been seen among close contacts of returned travelers from Wuhan, “but at this time, this virus is NOT currently spreading in the community in the United States,” said the CDC in a statement. “The U.S. government has taken unprecedented steps related to travel in response to the growing public health threat posed by this new coronavirus, including suspending entry in the United States of foreign nationals who have visited China within the past 14 days. Measures monitor the health of those who are allowed entry into the United States (U.S. citizens, residents and family) who have been in China within 14 days also are being implemented.
Outbreaks of novel virus infections among people are always of public health concern, CDC officials pointed out. The risk from these outbreaks “depends on characteristics of the virus, including how well it spreads between people, the severity of resulting illness, and the medical or other measures available to control the impact of the virus (for example, vaccine or treatment medications).”
The potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 is high, both globally and to the United States, the organization said in a release. The fact that this disease has caused illness, including illness resulting in death, and sustained person-to-person spread in China is concerning. These factors meet two of the criteria of a pandemic. It’s unclear how the situation will unfold, but risk is dependent on exposure.
“At this time, some people will have an increased risk of infection, for example healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19 and other close contacts of patients with COVID-19. For the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low at this time.”