The coronavirus death toll in the U.S. has now climbed to six as President Donald Trump called for drugmakers to speed up the development of a vaccine despite the top infectious disease official in the country warning it won't be ready for at least a year.
Health officials in Washington state announced on Monday that four people had died in the Seattle area in addition to the two other patients in that same area who died over the weekend.
Five of the six deaths have been linked to the LifeCare long-term aged care facility in Kirkland in King County. The sixth victim was from nearby Snohomish county. Officials say at least four of the six people who have died were elderly and/or had underlying health conditions.
News of the additional deaths came after Dr Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC News on Monday that the disease had likely reached 'pandemic proportions' as 100 cases were confirmed across the U.S.
'We're dealing with an evolving situation. We're dealing with clearly an emerging infectious disease that has now reached outbreak proportions and likely pandemic proportions,' Dr Fauci said. 'If you look at multiple definitions of what a pandemic is... multiple sustained transmissions of of a highly infectious agent in multiple regions of the globe.'
Dr Fauci went on to say the U.S. might need to consider social mitigation, including closing down schools and not allowing events where large crowds are in confined spaces.
'We're not ready for it right now but we need to be at least thinking about the possibility,' he said in the interview that will air in full on NBC Nightly News on Monday.
Trump and members of his Cabinet later met with Dr Fauci and executives of 10 pharmaceutical companies at the White House on Monday afternoon to learn ways to speed the development of a vaccine for the coronavirus.
During the meeting Trump reportedly said he had been told a vaccine would be completed in three to four months but Dr Fauci later confirmed that any vaccine would not be ready to hand out for at least a year.
The coronavirus death toll in the U.S. has now climbed to six. Five of the six deaths have been linked to the LifeCare (above) long-term aged care facility in Kirkland just outside Seattle in Washington state
In his NBC interview, Dr Fauci speculated that the current mortality rate would go down as more cases are diagnosed.
'I think 2.5 percent is probably a bit high... It's dangerous to make firm kinds of predictions. I think it likely will be down around 1 percent but I'm not sure.'
Dr Fauci, who is one of the few medical professionals on the White House appointed task force to address the U.S. response to the disease, was reportedly banned from speaking out unless prior approval was given by Vice President Mike Pence's office.
He denied that the Trump administration had pressured him to downplay his assessments of the disease, saying: 'No, absolutely not. There's no pressure. I tell it like it is. I've been doing that for 36 years and I will continue to tell it like it is.'
It comes after a New York doctor warned coronavirus cases in the U.S. will surge into the thousands by next week and the former head of the FDA claimed three critical weeks were lost in containing the spread of the virus due to faulty test kits given out by the government.
Health officials have been scrambling to get their own coronavirus testing kits up and running after getting stuck with faulty tests from the federal government that they said left them unable to diagnose people quickly.
State and local authorities are now also stepping up testing for the illness as the number of new cases grew to 100across the U.S. on Monday, with new infections announced in California, Florida, Illinois, Rhode Island, New York and Washington state.
New York confirmed its first coronavirus case on Sunday as a female healthcare worker in her 30s who returned from Iran last week and is now being quarantined in her Manhattan home.
Florida late Sunday declared a public health emergency as it confirmed its first two cases, while Rhode Island announced its two cases - two people who had returned from a school trip to Italy - had prompted the closure of a school so it could be sanitized.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has warned that the coronavirus has likely reached 'pandemic proportions'. He is pictured above flanked by Donald Trump and Mike Pence at the White House on Saturday
Dr Matt McCarthy (right), who works at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, warned coronavirus cases in the U.S. will surge into the thousands by next week. Scott Gottlieb(left), who is the former commissioner of the FDA, said three critical weeks were lost in trying to contain the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. because of the faulty tests
President Donald Trump and members of his Cabinet met with executives of 10 pharmaceutical companies at the White House on Monday afternoon to learn ways to speed the development of a vaccine for the coronavirus
Dr Matt McCarthy, who is a staff physician at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, has claimed he doesn't have the tools to properly care for patients because of the lack of coronavirus tests being made available to hospitals.
'We hear it's coming very soon but I'm here to tell you that at one of the busiest hospitals in the country, I don't have it at my finger tips. I still have to call the department of health, I still have to make my case and plead to test people,' he said.
'This is not good. We know that there are (91) cases in the United States. There are going to hundreds by middle week, there's going to be thousands by next week. This is a testing issue.'
He said the infectious disease team at his hospital, one of the busiest in the country, was equipped to deal with the outbreak but were crippled by the lack of diagnostic tests being made available by the government.
'Keep in mind in New York state the person who tested positive is only the 32nd test we've done in this state. That is a national scandal,' he said. 'They're testing 10,000 a day in some countries and we can't get this off the ground.
'I'm a practitioner on the firing line and I don't have the tools to properly care for patients today.'
Scott Gottlieb, who is the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, also told CNBC that three critical weeks were lost in trying to contain the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. because of the faulty tests.
'We lost about three critical weeks,' he said.
He said they should have also been working with manufacturers and working with academic labs to ensure they weren't just waiting for one test.
Gottlieb said the current situation is a consequence of that 'hiccup'.
It comes as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed on Sunday that a healthcare worker in her 30s was the first confirmed coronavirus case in the state.
She is thought to have contracted the coronavirus in Iran and is now currently self-quarantined in her Manhattan home.
Panic buying hit New York and other parts of the country over the weekend with anxious shoppers clearing supermarket shelves as they stock up on food and medical supplies. Pictured is a Costco in Brooklyn on Monday
Patrons with shopping carts loaded with tissue and water wait in checkout queues at a very busy Costco in Miami, Florida
People gather as street vendor Mike James sells them surgical mask, hand sanitizer and alcohol in Flushing, Queens on Monday
The U.S. stock market opened higher Monday morning after concerns surrounding the coronavirus outbreak led to the worst week on Wall Street since 2008.
The Dow Jones Industrial average went up 181 points or 0.7 per cent at opening bell, the S&P 500 was up 0.3 per cent, 10 points, while the Nasdaq Composite was 1.2 per cent higher, at the open, up 100 points.
Friday marked seven straight days of losses and the biggest weekly drop since the 2008 global financial crisis.
Mounting concerns about the economic impact of the new coronavirus outbreak had seen some gains in European stock markets wiped out Monday despite hopes of stimulus measures from major central banks.
The sheer scale of losses last week — almost $6 trillion was wiped off world stocks — have led financial markets to price in policy responses from almost every major central bank.
Investors were left reeling after virus fears wiped nearly $3 trillion off the combined market value of S&P 500 companies last week, with the index confirming its fastest correction in history in volatile trading on Thursday.
The coronavirus epidemic, which began in the Chinese province of Hubei, has killed 3,000 people worldwide.
Health authorities had previously tested more than 30 New York patients who have reported symptoms consistent with the virus, but until now each suspected case had proven to be a false alarm.
The test confirming the woman's illness was done at New York's Wadsworth Lab in Albany rather than the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Gov. Cuomo said on Saturday his state would immediately begin using its own test kit developed in-state after asking the FDA on Friday for permission to do so.
Previously, tests on New York patients were still being handled only by federal authorities.
The weeks-long struggle to expand local testing has been criticized as an early misstep in the response by President Donald Trump's administration to the outbreak.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed on Sunday that it is investigating a manufacturing defect in some initial coronavirus test kits that prompted some states to seek emergency approval to use their own test kits.
Three weeks ago, the FDA gave the green light for state and local labs to start using a testing kit developed by the CDC. But most labs that received the kits complained they had faulty components and produced inconclusive results, which the CDC later acknowledged.
In New York City, the kit they received was even more faulty than most, meaning city officials could not use a workaround released by the CDC this week. Meanwhile, it has had to courier samples to CDC's laboratories in Atlanta, adding a day or more to the process.
As of last week, only seven state labs had the ability to test for the coronavirus locally. The CDC has since been working to manufacture new kits that produce more reliable results.
Over the weekend, authorities confirmed that two people had died in Washington state after contracting coronavirus.
The total number of U.S. case has now soared to 91. The spread of the disease, which began in China, has now seen more than 89,000 cases worldwide and over 3,000 fatalities.
The coronavirus appeared poised for a spike in the United States in part because of more testing to confirm cases.
Florida's governor Ron DeSantis disclosed late Sunday that two people had become the first in his state to test positive and ordered his top health officer to declare a statewide public health emergency.
Two people who returned to Rhode Island from a trip to Europe have also tested positive for coronavirus. The patients in Rhode Island were on a school trip to Italy together in February. A third person from the trip is being tested and the school is shutting down for the week.
Empty shelves were seen at some supermarkets in New York as fear of the spread of coronavirus gripped the city
Empty shelves at a grocery store in New York. Shoppers have been stock-piling essential items over the weekend amid fears of the spreading