Reports to Congress, DoD Guidelines on Coronavirus Outbreak

January 31, 2020 10:28 AM

The following is the Jan. 31, 2020 Congressional Research Service In Focus report, Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV): Developments in China and International Response, the Jan. 29, 2020 CRS In Sight report, Another Coronavirus Emerges: U.S. Domestic Response to 2019-nCoV and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s Jan. 31, 2020 guidance to the Department of Defense.

From the In Focus report


On December 31, 2019, China’s government notified the World Health Organization (WHO) of patients with pneumonia of unknown cause in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. On January 7, 2020, Chinese scientists isolated a previously unknown coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in the patients. On January 12, China’s government shared the genetic sequence of the virus with WHO and international partners. By January 30, the virus had spread across China and to four continents. As required by the International Health Regulations (IHR), a legally binding instrument of international law under which countries work together for global health security, the global health community is closely monitoring 2019-nCoV and seeking to limit its spread. WHO is coordinating the global response; the United States is aiding as a member of WHO and through its own agencies, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Virus: 2019-nCoV

Coronaviruses are a large family of zoonotic viruses (viruses transmissible between animals and humans) that can cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most common symptoms among confirmed 2019- nCoV patients include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Of nearly 10,000 2019-nCoV cases identified in China as of January 30, China’s National Health Commission said just over 15% of patients are severely ill and 2% have died. Health experts are still seeking to understand the origins of the disease and its epidemiology, including the intensity of human-to-human transmission. Chinese Health Minister Ma Xiaowei has stated the virus can be infectious even before patients show symptoms, but CDC has not verified this claim. If confirmed, such transmission could increase the challenge of controlling the virus’s spread.

Download the report here.

From the In Sight report

The Emergence of 2019-nCoV On December 31, 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) was informed of a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China. Illnesses have since been linked to a previously unidentified strain of coronavirus, designated 2019 novel Coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV. To date, thousands have been infected, mostly in China, and over 100 have died. The disease has spread to several other countries, including the United States. As the scope of the epidemic widened in China, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated on January 27, 2020, that “the immediate health risk from the new virus to the general American public is low currently.” With the situation rapidly changing, both WHO and CDC post frequent updates. Coronaviruses (see Figure 1) are common respiratory pathogens, usually causing mild illnesses such as the common cold. The global health community is closely monitoring 2019-nCoV because of the severity of symptoms (including death) among those infected, and the speed of its spread worldwide. 2019-nCoV is causing the third-serious novel coronavirus outbreak in modern times, following severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012. Experts do not know the origin of 2019-nCoV, though genetic analysis and other features suggest an animal source.

Download the report here.

Pentagon Guidelines

Department of Defense Issues Guidelines to Personnel on Coronavirus

The Department of Defense has issued guidance to personnel aimed at reducing the potential threat of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

“I approved a directive apprising our forces about precautions they should take, how to recognize the signs and symptoms of the virus,” said Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper. “The Department of Defense continues to work closely with our interagency partners as we monitor the situation and protect our service members and their families, which is my highest priority.”

Due to the threat of novel coronavirus (2019-nCov), the Department of State recently adjusted the travel advisory for China to a Level 4, meaning individuals should not travel there. Additionally, the Department of State has requested that all non-essential U.S. government personnel defer travel to China in light of the novel coronavirus. Commanders of individually affected geographic commands will be issuing specific guidance to their forces.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also adjusted their travel advisory to a Level, recommending that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China. This outbreak is of high-risk to travelers and there are no precautions available to protect against the identified increased threat.

DOD officials are closely monitoring the outbreak of the virus, which was first detected in Wuhan City, China, and is closely coordinating with our interagency partners to ensure accurate and timely information is available and all appropriate measures are taken to prevent potential spread.

We encourage all DOD personnel to follow the attached guidance, as well as the CDC guidance (, and take precautions to stay healthy. Information from the Department of State can be found here:

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