February 27, 2020

COVID-19 Outbreak Slows in China, Climbs in Korea, Italy

Statistics from the World Health Organization show a decline in mainland China of newly reported cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that emerged from Wuhan, China, last December. The latest WHO report (PDF) indicates that 412 new cases were confirmed in China on Feb. 26, down from a high of 3,893 new cases on Feb. 5. The total number of confirmed cases in China since the start of the outbreak is now 78,191.

But spread of the virus is accelerating in other countries, with 459 new cases outside China. The Feb. 26 report is the first in which the number of new cases outside China exceeds the number of new cases in the country. Korea now has more than 1,200 total cases, and Italy has nearly 400.

WHO’s report also suggests a higher mortality rate than has been reported for COVID-19. The number of deaths worldwide is 2,762, or 3.4 percent of 81,109 total cases.

In the United States and Canada, 53 and 10 COVID-19 cases have been reported, respectively. The total for the U.S. includes 36 individuals who traveled on the Diamond Princess cruise ship currently docked in Yokohama, Japan, and have since been repatriated.


A press release from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention confirms that an individual in California with no known exposure to a COVID-19 patient and no relevant travel history has been infected by the virus that causes the disease. The individual is potentially the first known instance of community spread of the virus in the U.S. Community spread is the spread of an illness for which the source of infection is unknown, according to CDC.


A number of resources related to the protection and support of healthcare workers are available from WHO, including guidance on infection prevention and control related to possible cases of COVID-19 and a two-hour online course that provides a general introduction to acute respiratory infections and basic hygiene measures to protect against infection. Also available is guidance on risk communication for healthcare facilities.

Links to these and many other guidance documents from WHO, CDC, and other agencies are available from the AIHA Coronavirus Outbreak Resource Center.


On a conference call Feb. 25, representatives from WHO addressed the potential for the COVID-19 crisis to affect the mental health of healthcare workers. A WHO spokesperson said “the health workforce tends to report higher mental health symptoms” even in non-emergency situations and that their mental health should be attended to throughout the response. Increased work demands and long hours including shift work and night work contribute to healthcare workers’ stress, and memories of the event can continue to affect them even after the response ends. Healthcare workers, as well as their family and friends, might also experience ostracization from their communities due to fear of the virus.

The WHO representatives recommended several approaches to managing stress. Fostering good communication within healthcare teams and sharing up-to-date information can reduce uncertainty, representatives said. Management should encourage healthcare workers to share problems and ensure adequate rest periods.


A clinical trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the antiviral medication remdesivir in hospitalized adults diagnosed with COVID-19 has begun at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, according to a news release from the National Institutes of Health. The first participant in the trial is an individual who was quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.