SEATTLE, WA — A Washington man has died from COVID-19 — the new strain of coronavirus linked to China — marking the first known death connected to the illness in the United States as the total number of cases in the country rose to 22, with cases confirmed in individuals who had not traveled to areas affected by the virus.
The patient who died after contracting the virus was a King County man in his 50s with a chronic illness, which prompted the initial coronavirus testing, Seattle and King County health officials said at a Saturday news conference. Earlier on Saturday, federal health officials said they erroneously identified the patient as a woman in a briefing with President Trump and Vice President Pence, leading to Trump announcing that the patient was a woman at a White House news conference.
Local health officials also said on Saturday that there are two additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state connected to Life Care Center, a long-term care facility in King County. One case is a woman in her 40s who is employed at the facility, health officials said. She is being treated at Overlake Hospital and is listed in satisfactory condition. The second case is a woman in her 70s who is a LifeCare resident. She is being treated at EvergreenHealth Hospital in Kirkland and is in serious condition. In the past 24 hours, health officials have confirmed five total cases in the state, including the man who died.
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Saturday’s reported death is not associated with the facility, officials said.
According to health officials, more than 50 individuals associated with Life Care are reportedly sick with respiratory illnesses or currently hospitalized for pnuemonia. Officials expect more confirmed COVID-19 cases as early as Saturday, health officials said.
EvergreenHealth released a statement on the death Saturday morning:
We are working closely with health authorities following the death of a patient who tested positive for coronavirus COVID-19. That patient came to our facility with serious respiratory issues, and following guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), EvergreenHealth tested the patient for COVID-19. That test was positive. There is a second patient that also tested positive. That patient is in isolation and is receiving appropriate treatment.
Ahead of the press conference, Inslee declared a state of emergency in response to new cases of COVID-19, directing state agencies and departments to use all resources necessary to prepare for and respond to the outbreak. It also allows the use of the Washington National Guard, if necessary.
“This is a time to take common-sense, proactive measures to ensure the health and safety of those who live in Washington state,” Inslee said in the statement. “Our state agency directors have been actively preparing since the nation’s first case appeared in Snohomish County. Washingtonians can be assured we’ve taken this threat seriously and have been working in collaboration with our health care partners to develop plans and procedures to prepare for what could likely be a worldwide pandemic.”
King County Executive Dow Constantine said he had initiated a review of all government practices and activated the Emergency Operations Center to coordinate preventative measures across county agencies.
“We are fortunate to have one of the best public health agencies in the nation, and we are pulling all available resources into the fight against COVID-19,” Constantine said.
Representatives from King County Public Health, EvergreenHealth Hospital and the Washington State Department of Health briefed the public Saturday afternoon at Public Health headquarters in Seattle.
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During the briefing, Dr. Jeff Duchin with Seattle and King County Public Health said he expects a team of 10 officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offices in Atlanta to arrive in Washington Sunday to provide assistance with coronavirus testing.
On Friday night, the state Department of Health had announced two infections in Washington state — one in King County and one in Snohomish County. The Snohomish County case was diagnosed in a teen boy who had no recent travel history or close contacts.
The Mill Creek high school student was the fourth person on the west coast to be infected by an unknown source, following two cases in Northern California and one in Oregon. Officials said his illness did not appear connected to the others announced Saturday.
In Washington, there have been a total of six coronavirus cases, including the one case involving the patient death. The first U.S. case was also diagnosed in Washington. A Snohomish County man who returned from Wuhan, China in January tested positive for the virus. He has since been declared “fully recovered.” Until Friday, no other cases had been confirmed in Washington.
As of Friday, there were 15 cases of COVID-19 confirmed within the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By Saturday, federal officials said that number had risen to 22, which included cases of “community spread,” meaning the patients had not traveled to affected areas. Officials stated that more cases are expected.
The CDC said an additional 47 infections were among people who returned to the U.S. via State Department-chartered flights. The latter number includes 44 people who contracted the virus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
The virus — which originated in Wuhan, China — has infected at least 83,600 people internationally, and 2,800 people have died, according to the World Health Organization. It is spreading so quickly overseas that infectious disease experts and scientists warn there may be no way to contain it.
Thousands of others across the country are being monitored for the new coronavirus, including 8,400 people in the state of California, and more than 230 people in Massachusetts who may have been exposed to the virus are being monitored and self-quarantined in their homes.
Learn more about the COVID-19 public health response in Washington and across the U.S.: