Health Officials React to First Coronavirus Case in the United States

January 21, 2020

ARLINGTON, VA—Nathaniel Smith, MD, MPH, secretary of health at the Arkansas Department of Health and president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) issued the following statement today following the first confirmed case of novel coronavirus in Washington state.

“State and territorial health officials are working collaboratively with federal, state, and local partners should there be additional cases of novel coronavirus in the United States. As we learn more about the case in Washington state, health officials will continue to monitor and assess potential cases and take appropriate public health actions to prevent further transmission.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes the risk of 2019-nCoV to the American public at large remains low at this time. New viruses, like the coronavirus, remind us of the importance of prevention and public health. A strong public health system is the best defense against future disease threats to our nation’s health.”

ASTHO is monitoring the situation and state and territorial health officials are being routinely briefed by federal agencies on the situation overseas, as well as here in the United States.


ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories and freely associated states, and Washington, D.C., as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in public health practice.