The Washington Department of Health confirmed Saturday the first coronavirus-related death in Washington state, according to a press release obtained by local outlets. The fatality marks the first death associated with the virus in the United States, NPR reported.
During a press conference on Sunday, President Donald Trump said the first U.S. coronavirus death in Washington state was a “medically high-risk patient in her late 50s.” There a total of 22 people with coronavirus in the U.S., according to Trump.
“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. 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,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesperson Dr. Nancy Messonnier said. “We recognize that this is a difficult time; we are facing a historic public health challenge. 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.”
An investigation is ongoing and the source of these infections is currently unknown.
According to the CDC, Oregon and Washington announced their first possible instance of “community spread,” meaning the two patients who tested positive for coronavirus had not traveled to countries affected by the continued outbreak and the “source of infection is unknown.”
According to KCPQ, the patient in Washington who contracted coronavirus from an unknown source is a high school student at Henry M. Jackson High School in Snohomish County. The outlet reported that the student is not seriously ill.
The Everett Public School District in Washington said in a statement on Facebook that the student is in quarantine, and the high school is closing on Monday to undergo “three full days of deep disinfecting” out of “an abundance of caution.”
The patient in Oregon is an employee at a school in the Portland area, according to USA Today.
The CDC added that the Washington and Oregon cases — as well as the second California case — are being treated as “presumptive positive cases,” as they have not officially been confirmed as positive through CDC testing.
The first case of coronavirus from an unknown origin in California prompted the CDC to expand testing to anyone whom doctors suspect has the novel coronavirus, after the woman wasn’t tested for the virus for nearly a week after doctors expressed concerns that she had it.
Testing had previously been limited to people who had recently arrived back to the U.S. from China or had come into close contact with people who had already been diagnosed.
Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, spoke about the first California case in a press briefing on Friday.
“It’s possible this could be the first instance of community spread — meaning the illness was acquired through an unknown exposure in the community. It’s also possible, however, that a thorough investigation may show that the patient had exposure through contact to a returned traveler who was infected,” she said.
Messonnier later added, “While the immediate risk to the general American public remains low, and the U.S. government is doing everything we can to keep it low. CDC is constantly monitoring what is happening abroad.”
To prevent the spread of the virus, the CDC encourages maintaining basic forms of hygiene including careful hand washing, avoiding touching the face, moving away from people who are coughing or sneezing and staying home at signs of illness.