As expected, COVID-19, which most people simply refer to as coronavirus, is gaining a foothold in the United States. Vice President Mike Pence told Jake Tapper, “We know there will more cases” and that there could be more deaths. On Saturday, news of the first death in the U.S. was announced–that of a “medically high-risk” male in his 50s in Kirkland, Washington.
Prompted by Tapper, Pence admitted, “We could have more sad news.” CNN released a preview clip from the Pence interview that will air Sunday morning on the network’s “State of the Union” program …
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) February 29, 2020
Pence said that Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, explained to him that “most people that contract the coronavirus–they will recover. They will deal with a respiratory illness, we’ll get them treatment.
“But for people that have other conditions that would militate toward a worse outcome that, we could have more. We could have more sad news,” the vice president said. “But the American people should know the risk for the average American remains low.”
Washington, where the first US coronavirus death occurred, is at the forefront of this rising threat. The state that saw the first confirmed coronavirus case in the country and now the first death at EvergreenHealth hospital in Kirkland, has reported that multiple people at Life Care Center, a nearby long-term nursing and rehab facility, are at risk.
Two people at Life Care Center have tested positive at a state lab for COVID-19 and have been hospitalized.
In addition, 27 residents and 25 employees at the Kirkland nursing facility have symptoms, according to the CDC, the Seattle Times reported. They are being tested and “additional positive cases are expected,” public health officials said.
The CDC and local health officials have an emergency response team at the facility to try to gain control of the situation there. In a statement, the nursing facility said it’s not permitting visits from families, volunteers, or vendors, and is also placing admissions on hold.
Washington’s governor, Jay Inslee, declared a state of emergency Saturday.
The man who died on Friday at the EvergreenHealth hospital had an underlying chronic health condition, according to the Times. He had no history of recent travel to China or other countries with a coronavirus outbreak.
In the Seattle Times report, Dr. Francis Riedo of EvergreenHealth warned that the sudden emergence of the disease in the area is just “the tip of the iceberg.” According to the paper:
Officials attributed reports of the new cases to increased capacity for testing, meaning more low-level cases were likely already being transmitted in the community.
“I think, like anything, what we’re seeing is the tip of the iceberg,” EvergreenHealth’s Dr. Francis Riedo said at a news conference in downtown Seattle. “We’re seeing the most critically ill individuals. Usually that means there is a significant percentage of individuals with less severe illness floating around out there.”
Additional confirmed U.S. cases were announced Saturday evening–one in Cook County, Illinois–the third confirmed case there, and another in Santa Clara, California–the fourth case in that city. That brings the current running total of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. to 71, including citizens repatriated from Wuhan, China, or the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
On Saturday, President Trump held a press conference during which he announced the expansion of travel restrictions “to include any foreign national who has visited Iran within the last 14 days.” He also said the US was raising a travel advisory for specific regions of Italy and South Korea.
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