Trump creates coronavirus task force — 7 outbreak updates

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President Donald Trump has created a task force to monitor the coronavirus outbreak that has sickened 8,235 people and resulted in 171 deaths, The Hill reports.  

Key notes:

1. The White House has formed a task force led by HHS Secretary Alex Azar that will guide government response to the outbreak of respiratory infections. The task force has met daily since Jan. 27, with President Trump chairing a meeting Jan. 29, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told The Hill. U.S. officials received permission Jan. 29 to travel to China to study the virus. 

"The risk of infection for Americans remains low, and all agencies are working aggressively to monitor this continuously evolving situation and to keep the public informed," Ms. Grisham said.

2. Some U.S. airlines have cut China flights, according to USA Today. Delta Air Lines cut weekly flights to China in half through April, while United is cutting 24 flights during the first week of February. American is suspending flights between the two countries for seven weeks, and all three airlines are allowing travelers to postpone or cancel flights to China without penalty. 

3. Limited data may be skewing perceived severity of outbreak, STAT reports. Officials in China, in efforts to keep up with the rapidly spreading coronavirus, are recording severe cases first. The method is likely resulting in an underestimate of total case numbers and flawed assumptions about fatality rates, experts told STAT. The experts said they do not think Chinese officials are purposely underreporting cases.  

4. Americans want to know if coronavirus stems from Corona beer, according to USA Today. Google searches of "corona," "corona beer virus" and "beer virus" surged over the past week.

5. Florida hospitals are preparing for coronavirus before the Super Bowl, according to the Sun Sentinel. Staff at Miami-based Jackson Memorial Hospital and University of Miami Health System are being trained to ask about possible coronavirus exposure for anyone with respiratory infection symptoms. Miami International Airport is also now screening for symptoms of the virus, USA Today reports. 

6. Hospitals should stock up on supplies as the number of medical masks dwindles at drugstores and online retail platforms, Bloomberg reports. Disposable surgical masks may help prevent infections if worn properly and used consistently, experts told The New York Times. However, Julie Vaishampayan, MD, chairwoman of the public health committee for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, believes surgical masks are the "last line of defense" for the general public, the NYT reports.

7. WHO is reconvening Jan. 30 to determine if a public health emergency should be declared, The Hill reports. WHO officials said it was too early to declare a public emergency Jan. 23, but are reconsidering after human transmission cases were reported in three countries outside of China.

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