The coronavirus that emerged late last year and spread from central China was in almost 80 countries Wednesday morning, with outbreaks growing fast in South Korea, Italy, Iran and the United States. At least nine people have died of the COVID-19 disease in the U.S., all of them in Washington state and most of them from a single nursing home in the Seattle area.
Experts were clearly still struggling to get a firm grasp on how easily the disease spreads and how deadly it is, with the head of the World Health Organization saying the data available as of Tuesday suggested it could be more lethal, but less easily transmitted than previously thought. But epidemiologists have stressed there's still too little data to draw firm conclusions.
The WHO chief did issue an urgent plea for more data, urging countries facing outbreaks to test more people, more quickly, to bolster understanding of the disease. After faulty tests were distributed last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was working to get local health authorities across the U.S. the capacity to test about 1 million people by the weekend, to help assess the spread of the disease.
While the spread of the virus has slowed dramatically in China, infections were mounting fast in the U.S. and elsewhere. Almost 130 people in 16 states were infected by Wednesday, including the outbreak in the Seattle area.
With over 93,000 cases globally and more than 3,200 deaths attributed to the disease, officials were still trying to answer the big question: how bad will it get?