A person in Washington state in the US has died of the coronavirus, officials announced Saturday – the first death on US soil.
The news was first reported by local Washington outlet KOMO. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee confirmed the death in a statement on Saturday, calling it a “sad day.”
“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 governor added that the Washington State Department of Health, Emergency Management Division, and “local community health partners” were working to strengthen the state’s “preparedness and response efforts.”
A letter sent by EvergreenHealth, a regional healthcare network based in Seattle, confirmed that the patient who died was one of two people who’d been treated for “severe respiratory illness” there and tested positive for the coronavirus last night. Neither had a history of travel to China, according to the letter, which was obtained by KIRO.
The second patient has been placed in isolation, according to the letter.
Three cases had already been announced in Washington state: Two “presumptive positive” cases were reported on Friday – a woman in her 50s who was diagnosed after a trip to South Korea, and a high school student who is believed to be yet another US case of community spread.
Washington state also had the US’ very first coronavirus case: a man in his 30s who was diagnosed on January 21.
It was unclear if the death is one of the previously reported cases or a new one. Officials from the state are expected to provide updates overnight, South African time.
In total, the US has more than 60 confirmed coronavirus cases, most among people who were repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
In a press conference Saturday night, SA time, US President Donald Trump said the person who died was a high-risk patient in her late 50s, and that his administration was bracing for more cases but was confident that healthy people have no need for extra concern.
“There is no reason to panic, this is something that is being handled professionally,” Trump told reporters.
Trump also clarified his comment from a day earlier, when he called criticism from Democrats over his handling of the virus a “hoax.” When a reporter asked if he regretted using the word “hoax,” Trump said his comments were in reference to Democrats propagating other political issues like “the impeachment hoax or the Russia, Russia, Russia hoax.”
“Hoax referring to the action that they take to try and pin this on somebody because we’ve done such a good job,” Trump said Saturday. “The hoax is on them.”
(Additional reporting by Ellen Cranley)