(CNSNews.com) – Of the 16 countries reporting the highest number of confirmed cases of the China-originated coronavirus COVID-19, the United States, as of Wednesday, has the smallest number in proportion to its population.
President Trump on Wednesday attributed the relative success thus far in containing the outbreak at home to a decision early on to impose travel restrictions from China, a move which he said had prompted accusations of racism from his critics.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a cumulative total of 59 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States as of Wednesday.
But a 60th case was announced by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday.
Only 15 of those 60 cases were detected and tested in the U.S. itself. Azar announced the 15th case at a congressional hearing on Wednesday: “Coming into this hearing, I was informed that we have a 15th confirmed case, the epidemiology of which we are still discerning,” he said.
The 15th patient diagnosed in the U.S. is being treated at the University of California-Davis Medical Center. Press reports said this is the first U.S. case of possible human-to-human transmission in the general public, or "community spread" that is unrelated to travel or any known contact with an infected person.
Making up the rest of the 60 coronavirus cases in the U.S. are 42 patients from among the 328 Americans flown home from the Diamond Princess cruise ship berthed in Japan, plus three Americans repatriated from Wuhan, the Chinese city where the outbreak began late last year.
Even taking into account all 60 cases, the U.S. still has the smallest number of coronavirus cases per capita of the countries where more than ten confirmed cases had been reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) by Wednesday morning.
The others are: China (78,191 confirmed cases), South Korea (1,261), Italy (322), Japan (164), Iran (95), Singapore (91), Thailand (40), Bahrain (26), Australia (23), Malaysia (22), Germany (18), Britain (13), UAE (13), France (12), and Kuwait (12).
In order of the highest number of cases per capita, the ranking is: China (0.00560 percent of the national population), South Korea (0.00243 percent), Bahrain (0.00172), Singapore (0.00146), Italy (0.00051), Kuwait (0.00040), Japan (0.00013), UAE (0.00013), Iran (0.00011), Australia (0.00009), Malaysia (0.00006), Thailand (0.00005), Germany (0.00002), Britain (0.00002), France (0.00001), and the United States (0.00001).
(Percentages are based on population statistics from the CIA World Fact Book.)
‘Some people called me racist’
On January 31, HHS Secretary Azar declared a public health emergency for the entire United States, and Trump signed a proclamation authorizing travel restrictions designed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. They came into effect at 5 PM eastern time on Sunday, February 2.
Any foreign national who has visited China in the 14 days prior to arrival has been temporarily denied entry into the U.S. (Permanent residents and immediate family members of U.S. citizens are exempt.)
Any U.S. citizen who has been in Hubei province, the outbreak epicenter, within 14 days of their return is being placed under mandatory quarantine for up to two weeks. American citizens who have been in other parts of China in the past 14 days are screened and placed under self-monitored quarantine for up to 14 days.
During a White House press briefing Wednesday evening with members of his Coronavirus Task Force, Trump was asked at what point he would consider loosening the travel restrictions related to China.
“When we’re at a point where we don’t have a problem,” he began. “We’re not going to loosen the travel restrictions, that’s what saved us.”
“Had I not made a decision very early on not to take people from a certain area, we wouldn’t be talking this way,” Trump said. “We’d be talking about many more people would have been infected.”
“I took a lot of heat. I mean, some people called me racist because I made a decision so early. And we had never done that as a country before, let alone early. So it was a, you know, bold decision. It turned out to be a good decision. But I was criticized by the Democrats, they called me a racist because I made that decision, if you can believe that one.”
Trump appealed for national unity on the issue.
“We have to all work together. We can’t say bad things. And especially when we have the best team anywhere in the world,” he added, gesturing to the task force experts behind him. “And we really gave it an early start.”
During the press conference, Trump also cited a study by Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and partners which ranked countries for their preparedness to handle a viral outbreak.
“They did a study, comprehensive – the countries best and worst prepared for an epidemic. And the United States is now, we’re rated number one,” he said. “We’re rated number one for being prepared.”
The Oct. 2019 index ranked 195 countries in six specific areas, and then gave an overall score.
The United States was in first place in four of the six categories:
--Prevention of the emergence or release of pathogens
--Early detection and reporting for epidemics of potential international concern
--Sufficient and robust health system to treat the sick and protect health workers
--Commitments to improving national capacity, financing and adherence to norms
The U.S. was in second place in the category “rapid response to and mitigation of the spread of an epidemic,” and in 19th place in the category “overall risk environment and country vulnerability to biological threats.”
The U.S. was in first place overall, followed by Britain, the Netherlands, Australia, Canada, Thailand, and Sweden.