Enlarge /. WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 29: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as Secretary for Health and Human Services Alex Azar, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci, director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, and General Surgeon Jerome Adams listen during a message to conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on February 29, 2020 in Washington, DC. The Department of Health in Washington State has reported the first coronavirus death in the United States.
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Health officials in Washington State reported three dark new features of the coronavirus situation in the United States on Saturday. They reported the country's first death, the first case of a healthcare worker, and the first possible outbreak.
In a press conference by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, public health official in Seattle and King County, announced that there are three new suspected cases of COVID-19 in the county, including the person who died. All cases appear to be due to an undiscovered spread of the new corona virus in the community. The cases were identified because the state has only recently been given the opportunity to conduct its own tests.
Two of the cases are related to a long-term care facility called Life Care in Kirkland, Washington, east of Seattle. One of the cases involves a healthcare worker in the facility, a woman in her forties who is in a "satisfactory" condition. She has no known trip outside the United States. The other is a resident of the facility, a woman in her 70s. It is in serious condition.
The cases are likely to mark the beginning of an outbreak at the facility, which employs approximately 108 people and 180 people. So far, 27 residents and 25 employees have reported some COVID-19 symptoms, said Dr. Duchin.
An outbreak of COVID-19 in a nursing home is particularly alarming because previous data on the disease has clearly shown that older people and people with underlying health conditions are most at risk of infection and a life-threatening illness than cardiovascular diseases, Lung diseases and diabetes.
"We are very concerned about an outbreak in an environment where there are many older people," said Dr. Duchin.
A CDC team is on the way to the facility to deal with the situation. This team is expected to arrive in Kirkland on Saturday evening.
The country's first reported COVID-19 death was also in King County. The person who died was a man in his fifties with underlying health conditions. He died in a local Kirkland hospital, but was not a Life Care resident and has no immediately known connection to the facility. Health researchers are trying to find out how he got infected. (In a previous press conference, President Trump had identified the person who died as a woman. That's wrong. It was a man.)
The new information – a rapid escalation of the situation in the United States – follows the news of a potential spread of the community in four different areas of the United States: two in California and one in Oregon in addition to the Seattle and King County areas.
This escalation "increases our concern about the immediate threat to COVID-19 for certain communities," said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, in the briefing. However, the risk to the general public that is not in these areas is seen as low, she said.
The new information brings the country's number to 69 cases and one death. This includes 47 cases of repatriated citizens (44 from the Diamond Princess and 3 from Wuhan, China, where the outbreak started).