U.S. health officials said Friday there are 34 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States as the virus continues to spread from its epicenter in China.
Officials broke the number down, saying 21 cases are people repatriated by the State Department, many of whom were evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.
There are also a separate 13 cases not affiliated with the State Department repatriations.
Officials said the virus is still not spreading among the general public in the United States, but left open the possibility that could happen.
“It's very possible, even likely, that it may eventually happen,” said Dr. Nancy Messonier, a top official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Officials said more cases are expected among people who were repatriated from the cruise ship.
The Washington Post reported on Thursday that infected passengers were flown into the United States from Japan along with other passengers despite objections from the CDC.
The State Department defended that decision at a news briefing on Friday. The infected passengers were segregated in plastic-lined enclosures, according to the Post.
Dr. William Walters, a top State Department health official, said the circumstances were “unusual” and officials had to make a tough decision about whether to allow the flight. He said the decision was “the right one.”
Messonier acknowledged “there are going to be different perspectives” when making tough decisions, but said “we are one U.S. government working together.”
The virus has now killed over 2,000 people in China.