A person in King County has died due to a novel coronavirus infection, Public Health – Seattle & King County officials announced Saturday morning, marking the first death attributed to the virus in the United States since the outbreak began late last year and adding to a global toll that to date has killed more than 2,900 people.
“It is a sad day in our state as we learn that a Washingtonian has died from COVID-19,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement, referring to the illness caused by the virus. “Our hearts go out to their family and friends. We will continue to work toward a day where no one dies from this virus.”
The patient arrived at EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland with “serious respiratory issues” and tested positive for COVID-19, the hospital said in a statement. A second patient also tested positive and is currently in isolation and receiving treatment.
The announcement followed late-breaking news Friday night of two new cases in King and Snohomish counties. Those two patients had tested positive for the virus locally but those results had not yet been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Two additional people have tested positive for coronavirus at the longterm care facility LifeCare Center in Kirkland. A resident in her 70s is in serious condition, and a health employee in her 40s is stable. The long-term facility in Kirkland has 108 residents and 180 employees, according to the CDC. Twenty-seven residents and 25 employees have symptoms, according to the CDC.
Over 50 other people associated with LifeCare are reportedly ill with respiratory symptoms or were hospitalized with pneumonia or other conditions, according to a statement from Public Health Seattle-King County. All are being tested for COVID-19, and “additional positive cases are expected,” according to public health officials.
More than 85,000 cases have been detected in more than 57 countries worldwide, including more than 60 in the United States.
At a quickly convened news conference at The White House on Saturday, the Trump administration announced new travel restrictions in response to the news. Vice President Mike Pence detailed additional travel restrictions on Iran, expanding an existing Iran travel ban to include “any foreign national who has visited Iran in the last 14 days.” Pence also said that the administration was advising citizens not to travel to specific areas in Italy and South Korea that “have been most affected by the coronavirus.”
Pence additionally announced that the president had directed the State Department to coordinate medical screenings in Italy and South Korea of any individuals coming into the United States.
The Seattle Office of Emergency Management began convening twice-weekly sessions to plan the response to novel coronavirus earlier this month.
On Friday, Washington state’s public health lab started testing samples from patients, significantly reducing the wait time for results.
In a press briefing on Friday, Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, health officer for Public Health Seattle – King County, said much is still unknown about the illness. It appears highly transmissible, Duchin said, though officials did not have precise numbers on transmissibility – and Duchin acknowledged that this would vary from community to community.
There’s less clarity on how severe the illness is, Duchin said. The fatality rate from Hubei province in China, for example, may have been portrayed as higher than it actually was, because there may have been more total cases than reported, Duchin said.
More information on local cases will be forthcoming at a 1 p.m. press conference in downtown Seattle.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
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