This comes as coronavirus deaths are surging all over the globe, especially in Italy, Iran and South Korea. Currently, Italy has recorded 28 deaths, the highest single-day total for the country to date; Iran added 15 more COVID-19 related casualties, along with 586 additional new cases; and South Korea reported three new deaths along with 438 new cases, as of press time. The United States also confirmed that 11 Americans have died due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Over the past week, many provinces in China have not reported any new infections -- a promising sign of the outbreak's decline. In Shanghai, authorities only reported one new case over the past six days.
According to infectious disease expert Benjamin Cowling of the University of Hong Kong, the stark decrease in deaths and new cases in China shows that the government's efforts to control the coronavirus outbreak may be working. The government has quarantined most of Hubei province's 58 million residents, in particular, banning planes and trains from entering or leaving Wuhan. In Yangxin County, all highway entrances into and out of the county were sealed, bus and train stations were shut down, and no one is allowed to leave without being granted special permission.
"It's very clear that the actions taken in China have almost brought to an end their first wave of infections," he added.
The first of the 16 hospitals that China built in response to the outbreak has been closed down after it discharged its last patients, according to China Central Television. Zhang Junjian, the director of Wuhan's largest temporary hospital, believes that they could cease operations by the end of March. Their hospital was designed to treat between 1,500 and 2,000 patients. Now, they supposedly only have around 700 left.
While this may be good news, the coronavirus is still spreading in other parts of the world, particularly in the United States, where America may be seeing the beginning of a larger outbreak.
"What is happening now in the United States may be the beginning of what is happening abroad, said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
Most coronavirus cases in the United States have been limited to Washington state; however, reports of new cases have started to make its way around the country. Governor Gavin Newsom of California has declared a state of emergency after announcing that the state has 53 confirmed cases, including one death -- the first COVID-19 death outside of Washington state.
The first coronavirus death in California was a 71-year-old resident of Rocklin, in Placer County in northern California. The person had underlying health conditions and reportedly became infected while aboard a cruise ship, the Grand Princess, which departed from San Francisco to Mexico on February 10 and returned on February 21. Another person on board the cruise ship is known to have contracted COVID-19. Officials are now trying to locate hundreds of other Californians who were passengers on that vessel to get them tested and curb the spread of the infection.
The individual was rushed to the hospital Thursday and was tested for COVID-19 on Sunday. The results returned positive on Tuesday and the patient passed away on Wednesday morning. People who had close contact with the deceased, including 15 healthcare workers and emergency responders, are now in quarantine. Six other patients are currently being tested for the coronavirus and Aime Sisson, health officer for Placer County, is expecting to see cases of community transmission to arise soon. County officials have also requested that other Grand Princess passengers self-quarantine.
As the outbreak spreads all over California, Newsom has maintained his confidence that the state can prevent the virus from spreading, stating in a press conference that California has the resources to combat the outbreak. He also said that allowing state agencies to more easily procure funding for better equipment and services will help the state contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Newsom has further ordered the state to speed up testing on possible COVID-19 patients. This quicker testing, Newsom said, will likely lead to a sharp increase in confirmed cases for the state. "That is not necessarily a sign that the rate of infection is increasing, but that our ability to test more people more rapidly is leading to better detection." (Related: The Health Ranger was right: California governor admits the entire state has "just a few hundred" coronavirus testing kits.)
The CDC is warning that more coronavirus cases will likely come from a mix of contact with a traveler who was infected and community spread, or the spread of COVID-19 from an unknown source of infection.