The first coronavirus death has been reported in the United States. The Washington State Department of Health confirmed the news on Saturday, saying a man from Kings County in Washington died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
The man was in his 50s and had underlying health issues, officials said during a press conference on Saturday afternoon. They also said there are two other "presumptive positive" cases in Kings County.
Both of the cases are associated with Life Care Center of Kirkland, a long-term care nursing facility in Kirkland, Washington. One of the patients is a female health care worker at the facility who is in her 40s and is in "satisfactory condition." Officials do not believe she has traveled outside of the U.S. The other patient is a female resident at the facility who is in her 70s and is in "serious condition." Both women are currently hospitalized.
The patient who died of coronavirus was a patient at Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland, where the 70-year-old patient is also hospitalized. The person who died was not a resident of the nursing facility.
Jeff Duchin, health officer for public health in Seattle and King County, added that officials are aware of "a number" of other people associated with the facility who are reportedly sick with respiratory symptoms and pneumonia.
"We are in the process of investigating this situation as an outbreak," he said.
Officials are working with the nursing facility to "provide care for the infected patients, protect the unaffected patients, and to provide infection control guidance for their staff," Duchin said.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee said in a Saturday statement that "our hearts go out to their family and friends."
"It is a sad day in our state as we learn that a Washingtonian has died from COVID-19," he said. "We will continue to work toward a day where no one dies from this virus. ... I am committed to keeping Washingtonians healthy, safe and informed."
Shortly after the announcement, Inslee declared a state of emergency in Washington. He directed state agencies to "use all resources necessary to prepare for and respond to the outbreak," according to a press release. The state of emergency will permit the state to use the Washington National Guard if it is deemed necessary. The Washington Military Department activated the State Emergency Operations Center at the highest level in January.
"This is a time to take common-sense, proactive measures to ensure the health and safety of those who live in Washington state," he said. "... Our priority now is to slow the spread of this virus. Our health care professionals say the easiest way to do that is to practice good hygiene - wash your hands often, sanitize frequently touched surfaces and stay home when you're sick. Preventing future cases will require the work of all of us."
During a press conference on Saturday following the news of the death, President Trump said the person who died of COVID-19 was "a medically high risk patient." While the patient is believed to have contracted coronavirus through "community spread," CDC director Robert Redfield said during the press conference that they do not believe he recently traveled to a country with widespread cases.
There are more than 85,000 cases and 2,900 deaths from coronavirus worldwide. Mr. Trump said during the press conference that there are currently 22 coronavirus patients in the U.S.
Health official Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during Saturday's press conference that people in the U.S. remain at "low risk" of contracting coronavirus.
"The country as a whole ... still remains at low risk," he said. "But when we say that we want to underscore that this is an evolving situation."
Fauci also added that the people most at risk of dying from COVID-19 are those who are elderly and/or have underlying health issues, such as heart disease, chronic lung disease or diabetes.
"The majority is in that risk group," he said.
Following the announcement of the death in Washington on Saturday, Mr. Trump and Vice President Pence also announced expanded travel restrictions to countries with widespread cases of coronavirus. People in the U.S. have also been urged to not visit regions in Italy and South Korea "most affected by the coronavirus."
Mr. Trump is also "looking at the southern border" in regards to possible travel restrictions.
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