Weeks ago, Iranian health officials said COVID-19 was no match for their public health system and dismissed quarantines as “archaic.” Now, their country has the most COVID-19 deaths outside of China.
A top government priority? Silencing medical workers.
They’ve been warned not to disclose information about shortages or coronavirus patients and deaths. Some are risking their lives to reveal “what happens when a secretive state with limited resources tries to play down an outbreak,” the New York Times reports.
People hoarding face masks risk the death penalty. And the Health Ministry has proposed sending 300,000 soldiers door-to-door to sanitize houses.
On Tuesday, Iran officially acknowledged as many as 77 deaths from the virus and at least 2,300 cases, but the case count is thought to be much higher.
A Washington Post editorial agrees that Iran has underreported and undercounted the nonlethal infections, which may be in the tens of thousands and spreading through the notorious Evin Prison. (The BBC reports that Iran has temporarily freed 54,000 prisoners to prevent the virus’s spread.)
Describing “a government in denial, a people cynical and distrustful, and a burgeoning infection,” it concludes that Iran’s actions pose a broader threat. “As the world has seen, coronavirus unchecked anywhere is a danger everywhere.”
Meanwhile, the US fight against the virus has had its own challenges.
After a lawsuit and a public health emergency declaration, San Antonio officials finally allowed the CDC to release more than 120 Diamond Princess cruise ship evacuees from their quarantine at a local air force base.
The bureaucratic dust-up followed the weekend release of a woman from quarantine. After she visited a local mall and ate in a food court, a test revealed she was positive for the virus, as Brian Simpson reports from San Antonio in this Global Health NOW exclusive.
WHO has called for a 40% increase in the manufacture of gloves, medical masks, personal protective equipment and other essential supplies to counter global shortages that are leaving frontline health workers dangerously exposed.WHO
The Seattle area likely has more than 500 COVID-19 cases right now and is poised to see an explosive growth in cases similar to Wuhan unless forceful public health measures are taken soon, according to computational biologist Trevor Bedford of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. STAT
US health officials are considering paying for novel coronavirus testing and care of patients so that worry over medical bills won’t prevent uninsured and under-insured people from seeking medical care. The New York Times
Latest Numbers, from Reuters:
Countries affected: 80
Worldwide: 91,000+ cases; 166 deaths
Mainland China: 80,000+ cases; 2,946 deaths