“Over the last 12 hours, we’ve been able to receive information, both from South Korea and Italy, adding to our China information. And it’s as we thought: The elderly and preexisting conditions have a more serious illness when confronted with the coronavirus,” said Dr. Deborah Birx, coronavirus response coordinator in the White House.
“Reassuringly, in South Korea, no one has died under 30. This is reassuring to us. And the median age in Italy was 81, of those who succumbed. Those who became ill, the median age was 60. So we find this data reassuring but it also has really caused us to focus on the Americans who might be most vulnerable.”
Birx said the team will now be focusing their attention and resources on making sure those who have preexisting health conditions and the elderly have access to the best prevention and treatment options. She added that good protective hygiene for the elderly was of utmost importance.
In the same press briefing on Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence confirmed there are now more than 100 coronavirus cases in the United States, including domestic cases and cases of coronavirus in Americans that were returned from China or the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.
Pence said that while the majority of those with the virus, which was first identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December last year, are continuing to recover, one American in California recently died from the disease. The total death toll in the United States stands at 11 as of March 4.
The case involved an elderly man in Placer County, near Sacramento, who had underlying health problems. It is currently believed that he may have been exposed while on a cruise that traveled between San Francisco and Mexico last month.
He is one of two people who have so far tested positive for the virus after returning from the cruise ship. Authorities are tracking down other passengers on the cruise who may have been in close contact with the two individuals.
California Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday declared a state of emergency due to the outbreak, and said the state “is deploying every level of government to help identify cases and slow the spread of this coronavirus.”
Washington and Florida had already declared emergencies over the outbreak.
Mimi Nguyen Ly contributed to this report.