First U.S. death from coronavirus confirmed in U.S.; Total cases rise to 22

The patient who died was man in his 50s in Washington State, CDC says

First U.S. death from coronavirus confirmed in U.S.; Total cases rise to 22
EvergreenHealth Medical Center is seen Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, where a person died of COVID-19, in Kirkland, Wash. State health officials announced the death Saturday, marking the first such reported death in the United States. Gov. Jay Inslee directed state agencies to use “all resources necessary” to prepare for and respond to the outbreak. (Source: AP)

SEATTLE (WCSC/AP) - A person has died in Washington state of COVID-19, state health officials said Saturday, marking the first such reported death in the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health officials in Washington state reported three hospitalized patients who tested presumptive-positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, including one patient who died.

Two of the patients are from a long-term care facility where one is a health care worker, the CDC said. Additional residents and staff of the facility who have not yet been tested for COVID-19 are reportedly either ill with respiratory symptoms or hospitalized with pneumonia of an unknown cause.

The patient who died, identified by the CDC only as a man in his 50s, was being treated at the same hospital. He was not a resident of the long-term care facility. The CDC says it erroneously identified the patient as female in a briefing earlier Saturday with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

A spokesperson for EvergreenHealth Medical Center, Kayse Dahl, said the person died in the facility, but gave no details.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said the person who died was a man from Washington state.

“It is a sad day in our state as we learn that a Washingtonian has died from COVID-19. Our hearts go out to his family and friends,” Inslee said. “We will continue to work toward a day where no one dies from this virus.

The source of the infections is currently unknown, CDC officials say, but circumstances suggest “person-to-person spread in the community,” including in the long-term care facility.

“Our hearts go out to the family of the patient who died as well as the families of the people who are caught up in this outbreak,” CDC spokesperson Dr. Nancy Messonnier said. "The health of the residents, staff and community of this skilled nursing facility are a top priority. We will work with Public Health - Seattle and King County to support the care of the patients, the safety of the health care workers, and the well-being of the people in the surrounding community.”

This is the first reported death in the United States from COVID-19, as well as the first reported case in a health care worker and the first possible outbreak in a long-term care facility.

These reports from Washington follow others of community spread in Oregon and two places in California earlier this week.

Preliminary information raises the level of concern about the immediate threat for COVID-19 for certain communities in the United States, the CDC said. Most people in the United States will have little immediate risk of exposure to this virus, but some people will be at increased risk depending on their exposures.

The greatest risk is to those who have been in close contact with people with COVID-19. People with suspected or confirmed exposure should reach out to their state or local public health department.

CDC is sending a team of experts to support the investigation in Washington.

“We recognize that this is a difficult time; we are facing a historic public health challenge," Messonnier said. "We will continue to respond to COVID-19 in an aggressive way to contain and blunt the threat of this virus. While we still hope for the best, we continue to prepare for this virus to become widespread in the United States.”

These three cases bring the total number of COVID-19 cases detected through the U.S. public health system to 22. The federal government will continue to respond aggressively to this rapidly evolving situation.

Testing for the virus that causes COVID-19 was conducted in Washington state using the CDC rRT-PCR.

Results will be confirmed at CDC, but a presumptive positive result using the CDC test is treated as a positive for public health response purposes and a coordinated public health response has begun.

The number of coronavirus cases in the United States is considered small. Worldwide, the number of people sickened by the virus hovered Friday around 83,000, and there were more than 2,800 deaths, most of them in China.

Copyright 2020 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.