U.S. officials on Friday declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency. The declaration comes as American officials announced the seventh confirmed case of coronavirus in the country in a patient residing in Santa Clara, California, and Chinese officials announced more than 10,000 confirmed cases.
As a result of the declaration, foreign nationals who have traveled to China in the last two weeks and aren’t immediate family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents will be temporarily banned from entering the country, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Azar also announced that anyone entering the U.S. who has been in China’s Hubei province in the last two weeks will be subject to a two-week quarantine.
Earlier Friday, U.S. health officials issued a federal quarantine order for the 195 Americans evacuated from Wuhan, Hubei’s provincial capital. The group will remain at a military base in Southern California until mid-February, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters Friday.
The government hasn’t issued such a quarantine order in over 50 years, Messonnier said.
The State Department has warned Americans to avoid all travel to China due to the “rapidly spreading” outbreak. The decision came after the World Health Organization designated the outbreak a global public health emergency.
The U.S. now has seven confirmed cases of the virus, including the first confirmed instance of the disease spreading from person-to-person in the country. That patient, announced Thursday, is the husband of an Illinois woman who was diagnosed with the virus earlier this month.
By Friday morning the flu-like virus had killed at least 259 people, all of them in China. Almost 11,800 people are infected there, with about 130 cases in 22 other countries.