A week ago, Virginia did not have any confirmed cases of the coronavirus that is sweeping the nation and world after it surfaced in China.
Now two are confirmed, both in Northern Virginia.
An Amerian Marine based at Quantico and an 80-year-old resident who recently participated on a Nile River cruise in Egypt where other cases were found are the first two confirmed cases of the virus in the Old Dominion.
The senior citizen apparently developed symptoms of the respiratory illness on Feb. 28 and was hospitalized on Mar. 5. He is in “stable condition” according to a statement from the Virginian Dept. of Health.
“We don’t believe there is a substantial risk to the community, and we are not recommending that any events be canceled or any facilities be shut down,” says Dr. Ben Schwartz with the Fairfax County Health Department.
State epidemiologist Dr. Lilain Peake says the cases are “not related” and apparently not in contact with others at any time.
While the Fairfax County resident who was in contact with others who may have contracted the virus on the cruise in Egypt, we don’t know yet is the Marine has been out of the country.
We also don’t know where the participant of the Conservative Political Action Committee conference at National Harbor in Maryland near Washington, DC, two weeks ago might have contracted the virus either.
Two members of Congress — Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rep Paul Gosar of Arizona — say they had contact with the man at CPAC. Both are now in “self-quarantine,” along with members of their “senior staff” until the recommended 14-days of “waiting time” after known contact with a victim has passed.
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence also spoke at the CPAC conference. Maryland currently has five people confirmed with the virus.
U.S. health agencies across America have suffered severe budget cuts in recent years by a federal government that has put attention on health issues on the back burner, say they are “pushed to the limit” by the virus outbreak.
They say “decades of budget cuts” have left their departments without the staff, equipment or plans in place to fight such an outbreak.
Such cuts also affect the Floyd County Office of the Virginia Health Department, where cuts by the state and reluctance by the county board of supervisors to step in have reduced their hours to short weeks and less availability to offer needed services.
The same problems exist around the country.
“We just don’t have the capacity in the hospitals and health systems to deal with a massive influx of patients and keep them isolated,’’ says Gerard Anderson, a professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins University.
“We need masks, we need ventilators for our medical facilities, and we need it fast,” says Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), whose state has experienced the largest fatal outbreak in the country.
William Jaquis, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, says health systems with tight budget constraints don’t have the capability to keep supplies on hand to fight pandemics.
“We don’t have the backup readiness all the time for these issues and they keep repeating,” he says. Federal support for emergency preparedness in health care has declined annually for at least 15 years.
“Every administration has made cuts to these programs,” says Crystal Watson at John Hopkins. “It’s been in a downward trend for a long time.”
In Washington State, at least seven deaths were linked to the Life Care Center nursing home in Kirkland and health officials way more than 15,000 nursing homes and 20,000 residential care facilities are home to more than two million Americans.
Lisa Sweet, chief clinical officers for the National Association of Health Care Assistants, which represents nursing aides said some are prepared for a crisis like a coronavirus, but many are not.
“It runs the gamut,” she says. “There are some good providers who are really on the ball.”
Others, she admits, seem to be in no hurry to prepare for such a crisis. Those who don’t “are putting their residents in jeopardy.”
So do government leaders who put politics above protection.