First US case of coronavirus diagnosed without a known origin

A person in California has been diagnosed with the new coronavirus, despite having not having any “relevant travel history” or exposure to someone who was known to have the illness, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in an emailed statement today.

This may be the first instance of “community spread,” which is a term the public health community uses to say the source of the illness is unknown, the CDC said in its release. It’s also possible that the patient was exposed to a person who’d traveled, and didn’t realize they were infected. The Washington Post reported this person was in Northern California.

The CDC statement came just after President Donald Trump ended a press conference where he named Vice President Mike Pence as the leader of the US response to the novel coronavirus, also called COVID-19. Pence, as governor of Indiana, slashed funding to public health initiatives and delayed introducing needle exchanges, leading to the worst outbreak of HIV in Indiana’s history. Pence replaces Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

The coronavirus originated in China, which is still where most of the cases are. There are also disease outbreaks in South Korea, Japan, Italy and Iran. So far, there have been more than 80,000 confirmed cases, and more than 2,700 deaths.