As the news out of Asia regarding the spread of the coronavirus continues to sound more and more alarming, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to tell us that the threat to America is “low.” That’s not sitting well with a lot of people, including yours truly. I mean, are they saying that the risk to human health is low or the chance of the disease running wild in North America is low?

As to the first possibility, the Chinese are already owning up to a death toll of more than 100, even as they worked on the construction of a massive new hospital in only four days in the quarantine zone amid reports of bodies being cremated in significant numbers. And now, Hong Kong has cut off all travel to and from China. Sounds to me like somebody is taking this pretty seriously.

So what about the second question? Do we really have this under control in terms of making sure that the virus doesn’t, you know… go viral in the United States? As of last night, we were only up to six confirmed cases, but even the CDC is admitting that there are another 110 cases “under investigation” already. (Fox News)

Health officials monitoring the coronavirus in the U.S. said there are currently 110 “persons under investigation” across 26 states, noting that the number “will only increase” as the outbreak in China continues. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in an update on Monday that five of the cases in the U.S. tested positive for the novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, and 32 so far had produced negative results.

At this point, the CDC said the virus does appear to have mutated, but described the outbreak as a “rapidly changing situation.” The virus has killed at least 81 people in China and sickened over 2,700 more. The CDC said 16 other international locations had reported a case of the virus.

There’s a comforting sentence to read with your morning coffee, eh? The CDC confirms that “the virus has mutated.” These are several of the concerns I expressed when this outbreak started. Viruses do tend to mutate, and this one appears to be doing so quickly. And not only is the coronavirus definitely able to be spread from human to human (originally only being spread from animals), Chinese doctors have concluded that it’s contagious during the incubation period.

As I pointed out in my previous article, the incubation period appears to be anywhere from three or four days to a week. This means that people can be walking around feeling just fine and still spreading the disease. There were people flying out of (or simply fleeing) the affected portions of China for weeks before they started locking things down. We may have closed the barn door long after the horses had hit the road. Meanwhile, in Baltimore, somebody was pulled from a flight after failing the initial coronavirus screening.

A passenger who recently traveled to China was escorted off a plane at BWI Airport “out of an abundance of caution,” after showing flu-like symptoms.
Health officials escorted the passenger off of a Southwest flight from Las Vegas.

The Maryland Department of Health said, “the passenger did not meet the CDC’s critical for coronavirus testing but was referred to a medical facility for evaluation to determine whether additional follow-up was necessary.”

The truly sad part is that even if that person turns out to be a carrier, they’ll still probably sue the airline for yanking them off the plane.

This isn’t just going on in a few specific areas where we might be able to set up some quarantine lines. Two people were just identified in upstate New York who had recently traveled to China and are now experiencing “respiratory effects.” Whether we’re talking about them or the person in Baltimore, what if they wind up testing positive? Given the incubation period I mentioned above, how many others were they in contact with between returning from China and finally realizing they were ill and going to the hospital?

I assure you I’m not trying to be an alarmist here, but shouldn’t we have been better prepared than this after all of the Ebola madness a few years back? Perhaps we’ll get lucky again this time and the virus will turn out to be not such a big deal. Perhaps. But history has shown us that Captain Trips is going to show up sooner or later and we need better procedures in place than what’s been on display here so far.