First U.S. Coronavirus Death Is in Washington
A person has died in Washington state of COVID-19, state health officials said Saturday, marking the first such reported death in the United States.
State officials issued a terse news release announcing the death, gave no details and scheduled a news conference. A spokesperson for EvergreenHealth Medical Center, Kayse Dahl, said the person died in the facility in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland, but gave no other details.
President Donald Trump described the person as being a woman in her late 50s and having a high medical risk. He said healthy Americans should be able to recover if they contract the new virus.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement the person who died was a man from Washington state, but then issued another one removing the gender and describing the individual as “a Washingtonian.”
“We will continue to work toward a day where no one dies from this virus,” the governor said.
Washington state and King County health officials said “new people (have been) identified with the infection, one of whom died.” They did not say how many new cases there are.
Amy Reynolds of the Washington state health department said in a brief telephone interview: “We are dealing with an emergency evolving situation.”
Health officials in California, Oregon and Washington worried about the novel coronavirus spreading through West Coast communities after confirming at least three patients were infected by unknown means. They had not visited an area where there was an outbreak, nor apparently been in contact with anyone who had.
The number of coronavirus cases in the United States is considered small. Worldwide, the number of people sickened by the virus hovered Friday around 83,000, and there were more than 2,800 deaths, most of them in China.
Most infections result in mild symptoms, including coughing and fever, though some can become more serious and lead to pneumonia. Older people, especially those with chronic illnesses such as heart or lung disease, are especially vulnerable. Health officials think it spreads mainly from droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how the flu spreads.
The patients — an older Northern California woman with chronic health conditions, a high school student in Everett, and an employee at a Portland, Ore.-area school — hadn’t recently traveled overseas or had any known close contact with a traveler or an infected person, authorities said.
Earlier U.S. cases include three people who were evacuated from the central China city of Wuhan, epicenter of the outbreak; 14 people who returned from China, or their spouses; and 42 American passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, who were flown to U.S. military bases in California and Texas for quarantining.
Convinced that the number of cases will grow but determined to keep them from exploding, health agencies were ramping up efforts to identify patients.
The California Department of Public Health said Friday that the state will receive enough kits from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to test up to 1,200 people a day for the COVID-19 virus — a day after Gov. Gavin Newsom complained to federal health officials that the state had already exhausted its initial 200 test kits.
Santa Clara County in the San Francisco Bay Area reported two cases where the source of infection wasn’t known. The older woman was hospitalized for a respiratory illness, and rapid local testing confirmed in one day that she had the virus, health officials said.
The Santa Clara County resident was treated at a local hospital and is not known to have traveled to Solano County, where another woman was identified Wednesday as having contracted the virus from an unknown source.
Dozens of people had close contact with the Solano County woman. They were urged to quarantine themselves at home, while a few who showed symptoms of illness were in isolation, officials said.
At UC Davis Medical Center at least 124 registered nurses and other health care workers were sent home for “self-quarantine” after the Solano County woman with the virus was admitted, National Nurses United, a nationwide union representing RNs, said Friday.
The case “highlights the vulnerability of the nation’s hospitals to this virus,” the union said.
Earlier Friday, Oregon confirmed its first coronavirus case, a person who works at an elementary school in the Portland area, which will be temporarily closed.
The Lake Oswego School District sent a robocall to parents saying that Forest Hills Elementary will be closed until Wednesday so it can be deep-cleaned by maintenance workers.
Washington state health officials announced two new coronavirus cases Friday night, including a high school student who attends Jackson High School in Everett, said Dr. Chris Spitters of the Snohomish County Health District.
The other case in Washington was a woman in in King County in her 50s who had recently traveled to South Korea, authorities said.
Neither patient was seriously ill.