Coronavirus infection risk ‘extremely low,’ says Baker

Days after a Boston man was confirmed to have the first case of a new coronavirus in Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker said the risk for infection in the state is “extremely low.”

State public health officials announced Saturday afternoon that the respiratory virus was now present in Massachusetts, citing test results received Friday evening from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a man in his 20s who had “recently” traveled to Wuhan, China. Subsequently, University of Massachusetts Boston officials said the man was a “member of the UMass Boston community.”

Baker said the man “arrived before the CDC issued guidelines, generally, to airports around the country.” He told reporters after meeting with Senate President Karen Spilka and House Speaker Robert DeLeo that “the risk for coronavirus infection in Massachusetts is extremely low, and based on firsthand information associated with this particular individual, people are not particularly concerned about his travels once he got back to Massachusetts. He pretty much self-quarantined himself from the time he got back here until he got tested.”

Baker said he, DeLeo and Spilka “spent a bunch of time talking about coronavirus” during their roughly two-hour closed-door meeting. State officials, local public health departments, and hospitals “are all following the same guidelines that were put out by the CDC that everybody else is following,” he said.

The CDC, on its website, says that it remains “unclear how easily or sustainably this virus is spreading between people.” The center recommends washing hands often with soap and water, avoiding contact with people who are sick, staying home when sick, and covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throwing out the tissue.

Anyone sick with a fever, cough or difficulty breathing who has traveled to China or been in close contact with someone who has the virus in the 14 days before they began to feel sick is advised to seek medical care. The CDC advises people not to travel to China, not to use facemasks, and not to “show prejudice to people of Asian descent, because of fear of this new virus.”

Eleven coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the US, and 167 tests have come back negative as of Monday, according to the CDC.
US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency on Friday, and ordered any U.S. citizens returning from the center of the outbreak in China be quarantined for two weeks. As part of the emergency declaration, flight arrivals from China are limited to a handful of airports, according to the Department of Public Health.

On Monday, Baker said the only flights from China that will be coming into Logan Airport will be those arriving from Hong Kong.