So just how many people in the U.S. are known to have been infected with the Wuhan coronavirus? Is it 35? Or 14? Or a different number?
Looking at data from the widely trusted Johns Hopkins map shows 35 people as of Sunday. But the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's own tally from Friday shows just 14 people. Does that mean we jumped in number by 21 people in just days? No.
Getting up-to-date numbers that make sense at first glance can be a challenge.
Part of the reason is the CDCs own reporting system is difficult to understand.
The CDC's table of cases at the top of its update page, which often lags by 24 hours, only "represents cases detected and tested in the United States through U.S. public health surveillance systems" since Jan. 21, according to the agency. It excludes people who returned to the U.S. through State Department-chartered flights, and it doesn't include those who returned from cruise ships that were long docked in Asia after an explosion in infections. It also doesn't include known cases of people passing through the country, such as the Japanese couple who visited Hawaii earlier this month, but have left.
"As of this morning, when you break things up this way, we have 13 U.S. cases versus 21 cases among people who were repatriated. The repatriated cases include 18 passengers from the “Diamond Princess” (cruise ship) and three from the Wuhan repatriation flights," the CDC's Dr. Nancy Messonnier told reporters on Friday, according to a transcript.
But what can add to the confusion is inconsistent information from various state health authorities.
When TheStreet contacted officials in California to inquire about the status of the state's current patients, specifically to see if any had recovered, a spokesman from the California Department of Public Health would give no information, even what is publicly available, on the status of patients.
"To protect patient confidentiality, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) cannot provide any information about specific individuals," he said, only divulging that as of Feb. 12 the state had eight patients and had tested 150 additional people. TheStreet clarified that it was not seeking names or identifying information, just the status of people known to be infected, but the answer was the same.
Other state health departments refused to take any questions at all -- despite posting press releases on their sites about their first known infections. Washington and Massachusetts referred a reporter to local health authorities in the Snohomish district and Boston.
TheStreet is still waiting on a response to an email sent on Friday to Snohomish health officials, but Boston officials told TheStreet that the city's one known diagnosis, a UMass Boston student, who "is doing well and continues to recover. He was never hospitalized and is self-isolating at his off-campus home."
The email went on, "We understand there is a lot of fear and uncertainty. We continue to work with our city partners to combat anxiety and misinformation."
According to the Johns Hopkins map, 35 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COVID-19, with only five so far recovered.
This story has been corrected to note that the CDC's table at the top of its update page only shows some of those who tested positive for the virus.