Scientist: Hundreds may already be infected by coronavirus in Washington state alone

A Seattle scientist estimates that a “few hundred” residents of Washington state alone may already have been infected with the deadly new coronavirus.

“I believe we’re facing an already substantial outbreak in Washington State that was not detected until now,” Trevor Bedford, a biologist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, posted on Twitter. “There are some enormous implications here.”

Fewer than 10 infections have been confirmed in the state so far, and fewer than 80 are confirmed across the entire nation. The only U.S. death was reported Saturday near Seattle.

Bedford studied two cases that were confirmed more than a month apart and determined they are linked through community transmission – from a source not directly linked to another known case. Bedford tweeted his belief that the virus has been racing undetected, at least in Washington state, for six weeks.

“I see people overly speculating on total outbreak size,” the tweeted. “Our best current expectation is a few hundred current infections.”

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Rhode Island confirms first case

The Rhode Island Department of Health announced the state’s first “presumptive positive” case of coronavirus disease. The person is in their 40s and had traveled to Italy in mid-February, the department said in a statement.

The person was being treated in a hospital and “all infection control protocols” were being followed, the statement said.

“We are not seeing widespread community transmission in Rhode Island, and the general level of risk for Rhode Islanders is still low,” it added.

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Energy conference in Houston shelved

Organizers of the CERAweek conference that was scheduled to draw thousands of energy executives and officials from 80 nations to Houston was canceled because of coronavirus concerns.

The conference was scheduled for March 9-13. Organizer IHS Markit said it was cancelling “with deep disappointment.”

“An increasing number of companies are instituting travel bans and restrictions, border health checks are becoming more restrictive,” IHS said in a statement. “There is growing concern about large conferences with people coming from different parts of the world.”

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