Alex Azar speaks during a Jan. 28 press conference on the coordinated public health response to 2019-nCoV, with Robert Redfield (L), Nancy Messonnier and Anthony Fauci. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

China agreed on Tuesday to allow international experts, expected to include Americans, to work on the ground with their scientists on the fast-spreading coronavirus.

Why it matters: Roughly 60 cases are outside mainland China, where the outbreak has infected at least 4,633 people. While China quickly provided global access to the virus genome, the epidemiology of how the virus works is hard to determine from outside China with little public data.

Details: The World Health Organization announced it will organize the international group "as soon as possible to work with Chinese counterparts on increasing understanding of the outbreak to guide global response efforts."

  • Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said during a press conference, where he learned of WHO's announcement, that the U.S. would be "delighted" to participate.
  • Prior to receiving the news, Azar urged "more cooperation and transparency" from the Chinese government.

Between the lines: Researchers want to use this opportunity to study whether people can infect each other before showing symptoms, as this might change screening and quarantine practices.

  • Chinese health officials had said some asymptomatic people were infectious, but this has not been seen in the five current U.S. cases, all of whom traveled from Wuhan.
  • "Obviously, we'd have to change our operations if indeed that was a significant issue," National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease director Nancy Messonnier said.
  • In China, scientists also hope to gather data on where the virus may have originated, how fast it spreads and how severe the illnesses are. They plan to obtain specimens to build more robust diagnostics, vaccines and treatments.

The latest: While this is a "potentially very serious health threat," the risk to Americans right now remains low, Azar said. But officials are taking aggressive actions in preparation.

  • The CDC is expanding its entry screening to 20 locations from the five airports it designated last week, Messonnier said.
  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci said they are working on "the next generation" of diagnostics they hope will be distributed to states and possibly other nations within a few weeks. Plus, he added they are already developing a vaccine and China is testing antiviral drugs as possible treatments.
  • The U.S. government upped its warnings to say Americans should avoid nonessential travel to China.
  • Until it's determined the virus renders this method ineffective, Messonnier said the U.S. will continue its "tried and true" strategy of contact tracing — the method of reaching out and monitoring all known contacts of any infected people.

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Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 6:30 a.m. ET: 30,199,007 — Total deaths: 946,490— Total recoveries: 20,544, 967Map
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 6:30 a.m. ET: 6,675,593 — Total deaths: 197,644 — Total recoveries: 2,540,334 — Total tests: 90,710,730Map
  3. Politics: Former Pence aide says she plans to vote for Joe Biden, accusing Trump of costing lives in his coronavirus response.
  4. Health: Pew: 49% of Americans wouldn't get COVID-19 vaccine if available today Pandemic may cause cancer uptick The risks of moving too fast on a vaccine — COVID-19 racial disparities extend to health coverage losses.
  5. Business: Retail sales return to pre-coronavirus trend.
Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Mike Bloomberg's anti-chaos theory

CNN's Anderson Cooper questions Joe Biden last night at a drive-in town hall in Moosic, Pa., outside Scranton. Photo: CNN

Mike Bloomberg's $100 million Florida blitz begins today and will continue "wall to wall" in all 10 TV markets through Election Day, advisers tell me.

Why it matters: Bloomberg thinks that Joe Biden putting away Florida is the most feasible way to head off the national chaos we could have if the outcome of Trump v. Biden remained uncertain long after Election Day.

Biden's hardline Russia reset

Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Getty Images photos: Mark Reinstein

When he talks about Russia, Joe Biden has sounded like Ronald Reagan all summer, setting up a potential Day 1 confrontation with Russian President Vladimir Putin if Biden were to win.

Why it matters: Biden has promised a forceful response against Russia for both election interference and alleged bounty payments to target American troops in Afghanistan. But being tougher than President Trump could be the easy part. The risk is overdoing it and making diplomacy impossible.