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02 March 2020 - 10:45
News ID: 449385
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Washington Governor Jay Inslee declared state of emergency on Saturday after first patient died of coronavirus in the United States, and rising concerns over the disease outbreak in a care center where two people tested positive and dozens were reported to be feeling sick.

RNA - The first US death from the virus was announced on Saturday by Washington State health officials, while more than 50 people in a nursing facility are sick and being tested for the virus.

The man who died was in his 50s, had underlying health conditions and no history of travel or contact with a known COVID-19 case, health officials in Washington state noted at a news conference.

Inslee directed state agencies to use “all resources necessary” to prepare for and respond to the coronavirus outbreak. The declaration also allows the use of the Washington National Guard, if necessary.

Seattle and King County officials said “over 50 individuals associated with Life Care are reportedly ill with respiratory symptoms or hospitalized with pneumonia or other respiratory conditions of unknown cause and are being tested for COVID-19”, adding that “additional positive cases are expected”.

Also on Saturday, officials announced a possible outbreak of coronavirus at a nursing facility in Washington State, a serious situation given the risks the virus poses to elderly people.

The possible outbreak is at a long-term care facility in Kirkland, Wash., called Life Care Center. There are two presumptive positives associated with the facility, one a health care worker and the other a woman in her 70s. Adding to the concern, officials stated that approximately 27 of 108 residents and 25 of 180 staff have some symptoms and are being tested. 

Jeff Duchin, a Washington state health official, said they are "very concerned about an outbreak in this setting, where there are many older people”.

Duchin stated that a lack of availability of tests and strict criteria for testing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had delayed identification of people with the virus. 

"If we had the ability to test earlier, I'm sure we would have identified patients earlier," he added.

As Washington State declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus, researchers who studied cases in the state say that the virus may have been spreading there for weeks, suggesting the possibility that up to 1,500 people in the state may have been infected.

Saturday became more bad day for the United States after a patient in Illinois tested positive for the virus, according to state and county health officials.

The news came moments before President Donald Trump was scheduled to hold a press conference at the White House to provide an update on the spreading virus.

Trump said the administration is “very strongly” considering closing the Southern border to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, after a group of 11 Republicans called on the administration to close the US border with Mexico to prevent an outbreak.

At the press conference, Vice President Mike Pence, who Trump announced on Wednesday would be leading the administration’s response to the virus, announced that the State Department would impose travel restrictions and advisories on Iran, South Korea and Italy.

The first death comes as officials have announced four cases with unknown origins, raising the possibility that the virus is spreading among the general public in some areas. That includes two cases in California, one in Oregon and one in Washington state.  

More than 70 cases of the virus have been reported in the United States, but until this week, all of them could be explained by overseas travel or contact with someone who had been ill. But these cases were the first in the United States in which the cause was mysterious and unknown — a sign, experts warned that the virus might now be spreading in the country.

Experts have raised concerns that a lack of testing means that the virus could be circulating in some areas undetected.

A top US health official told lawmakers on Friday to expect many more coronavirus cases in the United States, as the administration of Trump faced mounting criticism for its response to the crisis.

The CDC has come under fire for faulty diagnostic tests that have prevented states from identifying potential patients with the disease. The agency on Friday announced it was providing states with additional test kits to speed up the process.

A senior official at the CDC had warned that the Spread of COVID-19 coronavirus in the US is not a matter of whether but when, and Americans need to prepare for their lives to be disrupted.

Lawmakers in both parties have expressed growing alarm that the threat of coronavirus in the United States is serious, and that the Trump administration is not doing enough to fight it.

Around the world, more countries are reporting new infections, companies have curtailed travel and global stock markets have tumbled.

Since it first appeared in Wuhan at the end of November, the coronavirus has spread to around 60 countries, infecting nearly 87,000 people and killing over 2,900 — the majority of them in China.

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