U.S. reports 15th coronavirus case; White House bashes China's response

An illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), depicts the 2019 Novel Coronavirus

(Reuters) - U.S. health officials reported a 15th confirmed case of coronavirus in the United States on Thursday as the White House criticized China's response to the outbreak, saying Beijing lacked transparency.

A patient who was among the Americans evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan - the epicenter of the outbreak - and placed under quarantine at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, became the latest U.S. case, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

The person was the third evacuee and first at Lackland to test positive for the virus, the CDC said.

The U.S. government has flown about 800 people from Hubei province, placing them under 14-day quarantine at U.S. military bases.

"The individual is currently isolated and receiving medical care at a designated hospital nearby," the CDC said, making Texas the seventh state with a reported case.

The fast-spreading virus has killed 1,370 people and infected about 60,000, nearly all in China, constraining the world's second-largest economy and testing the ruling Communist Party.

In central China's Hubei province, officials said 242 people died on Wednesday, the biggest daily rise since the virus emerged in Wuhan in December. That followed a forecast earlier this week by China's senior medical adviser that the epidemic may end there by April.

"We're a little disappointed in the lack of transparency coming from the Chinese, these numbers are jumping around. ... There was some surprise," top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters in Washington.

The sudden increase appeared to be largely due to a change in how Chinese officials were confirming cases. Hubei previously allowed infections to be confirmed only by a specific test that was in short supply. It has now begun identifying cases using more common lung scans.

As a result, another 14,840 new cases were reported in the province on Thursday, up from 2,015 new cases nationwide a day earlier.

The Trump administration was also very disappointed that Beijing had not accepted a U.S. invitation to send a team of CDC experts to China to help, Kudlow said.

But U.S. President Donald Trump also repeated his public praise for Chinese President Xi Jinping's response.

"I think they've handled it professionally, and I think they're extremely capable," Trump said in a podcast on iHeart Radio.

Asked if China was telling the truth about the virus, Trump said: "Well, you never know. I think they want to put the best face on it."


(Reporting by Manas Mishra, Daniel Trotta, Jeff Mason and Susan Heavey; Editing by Steve Orlofsky, Bill Berkrot and Will Dunham)