Global coronavirus cases have surpassed one million on Thursday, April 2 with more than 52,000 deaths as the pandemic further exploded in the US and the death toll climbed in Spain and Italy. But, Deborah Birx, the State Department immunologist advising the White House on its response to the Coronavirus outbreak, said that initially US officials who were aware of the COVID-19 outbreak "didn't know how contagious" the disease was.

The Coronavirus response coordinator for White House, Brix said initial data about the Coronavirus outbreak from China had gaps in information, which left the US authority with the less preparation for the pandemic.

US was unaware of Coronavirus pandemic

Deborah Birx
Dr Deborah Birx Wikimedia commons

During a digital town hall event with Fox News on Thursday, Brix said, "The bottom line is we didn't know how contagious it was. I think when you make misassumptions around contagion early on, then you don't prepare in the way that you should prepare for the level of contagion that this COVID-19 exhibits."

She mentioned that they received early reports on Coronavirus outbreak from China during a very difficult situation and weren't measuring asymptomatic cases or mild disease. Brix said, "that may be a significant portion of the epidemic and so we didn't know how it was spreading." The US authority was also not aware of how the deadly virus was spreading and did not get a clear view on the surface contact.

Intelligence report

As per three US officials, an intelligence report presented to White House revealed that China has covered up the extent of the coronavirus outbreak, under-reporting both total cases and deaths suffered due to the disease. While two of these officials claimed that China's COVID-19 numbers are inaccurate, they mentioned that its public reporting on Coronavirus cases and deaths is intentionally incomplete.

Citing the classified report, US President Donald Trump said "how do we know" if China is providing accurate information as "their numbers seem to be a little bit on the light side." Republicans in Congress expressed outrage that Beijing apparently put the world in jeopardy and misled the international community on its Coronavirus infections and deaths that began in December 2019 in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Even US lawmakers urged to launch an investigation into what is called China's 'cover-up' of the Coronavirus pandemic.

However, China has rejected the claims made by the intelligence report and it accused US for shifting the blame for its own handling of the pandemic. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Friday that China's response to the outbreak has been "open and transparent" since the COVID-19 was first identified in Wuhan.

Hua Chunying, Chinese Foreign Ministry's spokesperson
Twitter

US fighting COVID-19

Brix mentioned that she checked the data US received from China and when they looked at it the first question which appeared was human-to-human transmission which is very important to know. "So there was that first question, and I think when you're in the midst of an epidemic, it is hard for you to be testing at a level that you need to really look for those asymptomatic cases and really look for those people with mild disease. So now we're finding out that most of the reporting was around very severe cases," she added.

US Vice President Mike Pence blamed CDC and China for America's delayed response to the pandemic. Prior to that President Trump said, "I will be very candid with you and say that in mid-January the CDC was still assessing that the risk of the coronavirus to the American people was low. The very first case which was someone who had been in China, I believe took place in late January around the 20th day of January."

It should be noted that healthcare employees and officials in US continue to contain the spread of the Coronavirus outbreak as the number of infections and deaths rise. Among all the affected countries, US is the first nation to report 1,000 COVID-19 related deaths within 24 hours.

Earlier, Trump also mentioned that US could see conditions that are worse than Italy, which has had over 110,000 cases and more than 13,000 deaths. On Tuesday, March 31, the White House projected 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the US if current measures are maintained. While agreeing with the estimate, Brix warned that there could be as many as more than two million deaths if US does nothing to contain the outbreak.