14 Americans with coronavirus evacuated against CDC advice; US screening faces delays

As of 10 a.m., Feb. 21, the coronavirus has sickened 76,787 and has resulted in 2,248 deaths. Globally, 18,864 people have recovered from the illness. 

1. Americans infected with COVID-19 were evacuated against the CDC's advice, the Washington Post reports. On Feb. 21, 328 Americans flew home after weeks of quarantine on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan. U.S. officials learned 14 passengers were infected with COVID-19 as the evacuees were about to leave, and the State Department and an administration health official decided to send the asymptomatic passengers home, segregated by a plastic-lined enclosure on the plane. CDC officials disagreed, arguing that the passengers could spread the virus, and demanded to be excluded from the news release explaining the decision.

Healthy passengers were not informed of the infected passengers, and one expressed  frustration at being "re-exposed" to the virus, according to the Washington Post. 

2. Issues with CDC testing kits have delayed screening, Politico reports. Only three of more than 100 public health labs in the U.S. have verified the COVID-19 test for use, after one of the three components delivered inconclusive results during quality checks. Positive test samples at the three labs are still being sent to the CDC for retesting. The CDC is reformulating the test, but will need FDA authorization before distributing a new version. 

3. China changed how it diagnoses cases for a third time, CNN reports. Previously, the Hubei province began to report "clinically diagnosed" cases, or patients who exhibited COVID-19 symptoms, instead of solely relying on diagnostic test results. The change was intended to help clear a backlog of suspected cases, and the number of confirmed cases skyrocketed after being implemented. 

However, the government changed guidelines again Feb. 20, excluding clinically confirmed cases. Now patients must have a positive lab test result, and other cases will be listed as "suspected." The province also banned the practice of reducing the number of already confirmed cases Feb. 21.

China cited improved testing capacity as the reason for again switching the way cases are counted in the area, according to CNN. 

4. Houston-based Greffex engineering scientists reportedly finished developing a COVID-19 vaccine, Houston Business Journal reports. The vaccine, a product of an $18.9 million September 2019 contract with NIH's National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is now to be tested by the FDA. If approved, the company intends to give the vaccine away for free to countries in need.

5. Ukraine's health minister is locking herself up with evacuees to ease outbreak panic, according to Forbes. Minister Zoryana Skaletska announced on Facebook that she would spend the next two weeks locked up in quarantine with Wuhan evacuees who arrived Feb. 20. The arrival of the evacuees, all healthy, prompted violent protests. Ms. Skaletska hopes her presence will calm fears.  

6. A second Wuhan physician has died from the virus, Fox News reports. Peng Yinhua, a 29-year-old physician, died Feb. 20, the second front-line healthcare worker to die in the outbreak. 

7. The FBI ordered $40,000 in hand sanitizer and face masks in case of a U.S. pandemic, according to an acquisition document cited by CNBC. 

More articles on public health:
Coronavirus mortality: Here's what we know
FDA calls on public for help with vaping investigation
Flu vaccine is about 45% effective, CDC says

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