Washington state declares emergency after first patient dies from coronavirus in US

Washington state declares emergency after first patient dies from coronavirus in US
Washington state declares emergency after first patient dies from coronavirus in US  

Washington state declared a state of emergency Saturday only hours after a man in his 50s with underlying health problems was identified as the first person in the U.S. to die from the coronavirus outbreak.

Washington state public health officials said two additional confirmed cases of the virus are associated with a longterm care facility in the state. Officials said 27 patients and 25 staff members at the Life Care Center of Kirkland had reported symptoms similar to the coronavirus. The facility has 108 residents and 180 employees.

The two additional cases include a facility staff worker in their 40s, who was in satisfactory condition, and a facility resident in their 70s, who was in serious condition.

The patient who died was identified by state and county health officials as a man in his 50s. The patient was being treated at EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland, Washington, with serious respiratory issues, according to hospital spokesperson Julia Irwin.

Washington man dies from coronavirus: What we know about the first US death

While President Donald Trump, speaking to reporters in Washington, D.C., initially identified the patient as a woman, state and King County officials during a news conference hosted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention insisted that the patient was a man. Later, CDC Director Robert Redfield tweeted that the agency had mistakenly identified the patient as female when briefing the president and vice president.

Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the new coronavirus task force, expressed his condolences to the patient's family.

Meanwhile, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in declaring a state of emergency that it would "allow us to get the resources we need."

Inslee said in a statement Saturday that it is a "sad day" and that officials will continue to strengthen preparedness and response efforts. "We will continue to work toward a day where no one dies from this virus."

Coronavirus updates every day: Get USA TODAY's Daily Briefing in your inbox

Trump said there are 22 patients in the U.S. who have been confirmed as having the virus. He said 15 of them are either recovered fully "or well on their way."

Trump did not appear to be counting Americans who had contracted the disease before re-entering the country. According to the CDC on Saturday, at least 59 people in the U.S. have been infected with the virus. Of those cases, 12 are travel-related, and three are person-to-person spread. Most of the cases are among Americans repatriated to the U.S., including three cases that originated in Wuhan, China, and 44 aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

Trump told reporters that more cases of the virus in the U.S. are "likely," but that "healthy individuals should be able to fully recover."

"So healthy people, if you're healthy, you will probably go through a process, and you'll be fine," the president said.

Here's the latest on the outbreak of COVID-19:

  • 'No need to panic': President Trump says risk to Americans is low as first coronavirus death reported in US

  • 'Not gone as smoothly as we would have liked': CDC fixes coronavirus testing kit glitch

  • Rumors directed at Chinese Americans: Lawmakers condemn xenophobia

  • Coronavirus travel guide: The latest advisories and warnings

  • It's not a pandemic. So what is it?

Health official: Stop buying face masks

Pence on Saturday said the U.S. government has contracted with the 3M Company to produce 35 million additional face masks per month, with high-risk health workers given priority for them.

The surgeon general on Saturday urged the public to stop buying masks, warning that it takes away important resources from health care professionals and won't help against the spread of the coronavirus

"Seriously people - STOP BUYING MASKS!" the surgeon general, Jerome M. Adams, said in a tweet on Saturday morning. "They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if health care providers can't get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!"

House expected to take up funding package to combat coronavirus

Hours after officials announced coronavirus took its first life in the U.S., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to fellow Democrats Saturday, encouraging lawmakers to get their flu shots and offering an update on additional funding Congress plans to pass quickly to both combat the virus and ensure the U.S. is prepared for its possible spread.

Pelosi told fellow House Democrats that the House planned to take up a supplemental funding package next week. "Any emergency funding supplemental the Congress approves must be entirely new funding, not stolen from other accounts," Pelosi said in the letter. "This package must also ensure that the President cannot use these new funds for anything other than fighting coronavirus and infectious diseases."

Pelosi also said the funding package must ensure that vaccines are affordable and available to all.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also said the Senate is similarly working on a coronavirus funding package and has stressed the need to put politics aside so those in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle can work together. He has said the package could be taken up in the next two weeks.

"Bipartisan discussions are already underway among our colleagues on the Appropriations Committee," McConnell said Thursday on the Senate floor. "I have faith the Committee will carefully consider the right sum to appropriate at this time to ensure our nation's needs are fully funded. I hope they can work expeditiously so the full Senate would be able to take up the legislation within the next two weeks."

The House and Senate will have to agree on a funding package before it can get to the president's desk. White House officials expect Congress to hand them a coronavirus funding package as early as next week and hope that Trump will be able to sign the bill no later than the following week, Eric Ueland, Trump's legislative affairs director, told reporters Friday.

- Christal Hayes and Michael Collins

Travel advisory for Italy, South Korea raised

The Trump administration is urging Americans to avoid travel to parts of Italy and South Korea amid growing concern about the spread of coronavirus.

Pence said Saturday that the U.S. has raised the travel warning to level 4 - its most severe warning - regarding travel to affected areas of Italy and South Korea.

Pence also said restrictions on travel to Iran have been expanded. The existing travel ban on Iran has been expanded to restrict travel for any foreign national that has visited Iran in the last 14 days, Pence said.

- Morgan Hines

UConn recalls 88 study abroad students from Italy

The University of Connecticut suspended its study aboard program in Italy on Saturday and notified its 88 students there to return to the U.S. immediately.

UConn said on its website that it was responding to new guidance by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which issued a Warning Level 3 on Friday that recommends Americans avoid all non-essential travel to China, South Korea, Italy and Iran because of the coronavirus outbreaks..

UConn said its students in Italy would be provided online and remote learning opportunities in the U.S. to allow them to complete their academic requirements.

China sees slowdown in new infections

China, where the outbreak began in December, has seen a slowdown in new infections and on Saturday morning reported 427 new cases over the past 24 hours along with 47 additional deaths. The city at the epicenter of the outbreak, Wuhan, accounted for the bulk of both.

New cases in mainland China have held steady at under 500 for past four days, with almost all of them in Wuhan and its surrounding Hubei province.

With the number of discharged patients now greatly exceeding those of new arrivals, Wuhan now has more than 5,000 spare beds in 16 temporary treatment centers, Ma Xiaowei, director of the National Health Commission, told a news conference in Wuhan on Friday.

The coronavirus outbreak had infected more than 84,000 people and killed nearly 3,000 people globally as of Saturday morning, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

South Korea has recorded the most cases outside of China, and Iran has seen the most deaths outside the nation.

France bans indoor gatherings of more than 5K

France is banning all indoor public gatherings of more than 5,000 people to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Health Minister Olivier Veran announced the measures following special government meetings Saturday, France 24 reported. All public gatherings in the Oise region north of Paris are being banned completely.

In addition, Sunday's Paris half-marathon will not take place as scheduled.

"These measures are provisional and we will undoubtedly have to modify them over time," Véran said. "They are restrictive measures and we hope that they last for some time because that would allow us to contain the spread of the virus."

Two people have died in France from the virus-related illness, a 60-year-old French teacher and an 80-year-old Chinese tourist.

California receives additional test kits

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.

The announcement followed a complaint by Gov. Gavin Newsom to federal health officials that the state had already exhausted its initial 200 test kits.

Iran preparing to test 'tens of thousands'

Iran is preparing for the possibility of "tens of thousands" of people getting tested for the virus as the number of confirmed cases spiked again Saturday, an official said, underscoring the fear both at home and abroad over the outbreak in the Islamic Republic.

The virus and the COVID-19 illness it causes have killed 43 people out of 593 confirmed cases in Iran, Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said. The new toll represents a jump of 205 cases - a 150% increase from the 388 reported the day before.

But the number of known cases versus deaths would put the virus' death rate in Iran at over 7%, much higher than other countries. That's worried experts at the World Health Organization and elsewhere that Iran may be underreporting the number of cases now affecting it.

- AP

South Korea urges citizens to stay indoors

South Korea urged its citizens Saturday to stay home and avoid public gatherings to try to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

"We have asked you to refrain from taking part in public events, including a religious gathering or protest, this weekend," vice health minister Kim Kang-lip told said during a briefing, according to Reuters.

The Korean Medical Association likewise advised "social distancing."

"Cancel all plans, and refrain from non-essential outings as much as possible," the doctors' group said, according to The Korea Herald.

South Korea added 813 new cases Saturday, raising the total to 3,150. It has reported 17 deaths from the virus.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus: Washington declares emergency after first US death


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