CDC Abruptly Postpones Press Briefing on New Coronavirus

March 2, 2020 Updated: March 2, 2020
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) abruptly postponed a scheduled telebriefing for reporters on the new coronavirus.

CDC spokesman Benjamin Haynes told reporters on the call that it was being postponed. He did not state a reason why or when the call would be held.

Reporters were then asked to disconnect.

The call was originally scheduled for 12 p.m. The CDC said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the agency’s¬†National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, would speak, as well as Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn.

The media advisory for the telebriefing on the agency’s website now states: “This telebriefing has been cancelled.”

Telebriefings are one of the only times the CDC provides updates on the situation with the new virus. Messonnier has been on all of the calls, which started in January, and is often joined by local or state health officials or one or more federal officials from agencies like the State Department.

Reporters usually get around 90 minutes’ notice of scheduled briefings and there is no set schedule. Asked last week if the agency would commit to daily briefings or some kind of schedule, Messonnier wouldn’t commit to a schedule but said the phone calls would continue. She last held briefings on Friday and Saturday.

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The Center for Disease Control (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. Federal officials fixed an issue with test kits that delayed wider testing for the new coronavirus, officials said on Feb. 27, 2020. (Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

The briefings usually yield stories, such as when Messonnier warned of likely community spread of the virus last week. Federal officials spent the next several days answering questions from lawmakers about the virus, including about Messonnier’s warning, on Capitol Hill.

Cases linked to community spread, or those with no known source of infection, began appearing several days later. Three were reported on Friday, one each in California, Oregon, and Washington state.

Some two dozen cases were reported by state officials over the weekend, including the country’s first two deaths from COVID-19, the disease the new virus causes.

According to the CDC, there are now 91 cases in the country. The cases are divided into two distinct categories: patients among the groups evacuated from Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus in China, or the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which docked in Yokohama, Japan; or those infected either through traveling to China themselves, close contact with those that returned from China, or from community spread.

Forty-five Diamond Princess evacuees have tested positive as well as three who were flown out of Wuhan. Another 43 people have tested positive, including 26 from person-to-person spread, the agency said in its latest update on Monday. The CDC’s website stopped showing the number of people tested for the virus, which was at 472 before.

Authorities in New York, Rhode Island, and Florida reported the first confirmed cases in each state over the weekend, with most of the other new cases appearing in California or Washington state. The majority of the patients are on the West Coast. New Hampshire reported its first case on March 2.

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