Washington state health officials have reportedly confirmed the first U.S. death due to coronavirus (COVID-19).
According to The Associated Press, the death of an unnamed King County man was officially revealed Saturday morning in a brief Washington Department of Health news release.
“The Washington State Department of Health confirms the first U.S. death from COVID-19 has occurred here in the state of Washington,” state officials tweeted as the news broke.
No further information was provided on the deceased patient; however, the department did announce a formal news conference regarding the situation for 1 p.m. PST.
The Washington State Department of Health confirms the first U.S. death from COVID-19 has occurred here in the state of Washington. We will share more information at a media briefing today at 1pm. Information to watch via livestream will be shared here. #COVID19
— WA Dept. of Health (@WADeptHealth) February 29, 2020
One of several West Coast communities impacted by the sparse stateside spread of the SARS-like novel coronavirus, which originated in China late last month, King County had announced one of the state’s two latest cases of the disease just one day prior to the development.
The two new cases were referred to Friday in a Washington State Department of Health news release as “presumptive positives,” confirmed by local health public health laboratories but pending further evaluation from the Centers for Disease Control, emerging in a middle-aged woman and a Snohomish County child.
Currently at home in isolation, the 50-year-old infected woman, a King County resident, is believed to have traveled to Daegu, South Korea, recently — where confirmed coronavirus cases spiked by a dramatic 813 cases this week, according to The Guardian.
No travel confirmations have been made, however, in the case of the Snohomish County boy, leading local health officials to consider the possibility he may have been infected by community spread.
Dangerous and untraceable, community spread occurs when individuals begin contracting a virus despite not having traveled to regions where the disease is common or come into contact with individuals believed to be carrying the disease.
Confirmed cases of coronavirus are still in the double digits stateside, CBS News reported, but a Wednesday announcement from the CDC that first cases of potential community spread had been discovered in California served to exacerbate panic surrounding coronavirus within the U.S.
According to The New York Times, recent remarks from agency officials also betrayed the sentiments of some federal health officials who feel a wider outbreak within the U.S. is only a matter of time.
“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters Tuesday.
“We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare, in the expectation that this could be bad,” Messonnier added.
Following a sizable spike this past week, global coronavirus cases are currently estimated as exceeding 83,000, leading the World Health Organization to declare the disease a public health emergency of international concern, according to CNN.
Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee addressed Washington residents in a Saturday statement prior to his Health Department’s 1 p.m. news conference, expressing condolences to the family the unnamed first American casualty of coronavirus.
“It is a sad day in our state as we learn that a Washingtonian has died from COVID-19. Our hearts go out to their family and friends,” Inlee said. “We will continue to work toward a day where no one dies from this virus.”
“In partnership with the Washington State Department of Health, the Washington State Department of Emergency Management and local and community health partners, we are strengthening our preparedness and response efforts,” the governor added.
“I am committed to keeping Washingtonians healthy, safe and informed.”
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