WASHINGTON — The first death from the new coronavirus in the United States was a man in Washington state, where the governor has declared a state of emergency on Saturday.
Officials said the man who died there of COVID-19 was in his 50s and had underlying health conditions. More than 50 people in a nursing facility are sick and being tested for the virus. A woman in her 40s who works at the facility and a resident in her 70s have tested positive for the virus.
Officials in California and Oregon are also worried about the novel coronavirus spreading through West Coast communities because people are being infected by unknown means.
COVID-19 is a member of the coronavirus family and is related to the SARS and MERS viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past.
President Donald Trump addressed the nation on Saturday about the coronavirus threat, saying the U.S. is “super prepared” for a wider coronavirus outbreak and “there’s no reason to panic.” He spoke after officials reported the first death from the disease in the U.S. Officials say the man had a high medical risk before contracting the virus.
Trump and other officials announced the U.S. is banning travel to Iran and urging Americans not to travel to regions of Italy and South Korea where the virus has been prevalent. Public health officials say they mistakenly told Trump and Vice President Mike Pence that the patient who died was a woman.
Trump had acknowledged the death in Saturday's press conference saying of the patient that she was, "a wonderful woman, a medically high risk patient in her 50s."
However, Washington state health officials confirmed later on Saturday afternoon that the patient was a man. Seattle and King County Public Health Officer Jeff Duchin said during a press phone call led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the patient who died was a man, not a woman as the president had said earlier.
During his news conference, Trump said that "the White House coronavirus taskforce" met for two hours Saturday, and both he and Pence attended that meeting.
Trump said 22 people in the U.S. have been stricken by the new coronavirus and more cases in the United States are “likely.” He says healthy Americans should be able to recover if they contract the new virus.
Pence said the travel ban placed on Iran will include blocking any foreign national who has been there within the last 14 days from going to the U.S.
Pence said the federal government is urging Americans not to travel to areas of Italy and South Korea worst affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The vice president also said they have been working with 3M to boost production of face masks.
The coronavirus can cause fever, coughing, wheezing and pneumonia. Health officials think it spreads mainly from droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how the flu spreads.
The outbreak began in China but has infected tens of thousands of people in more than three dozen countries, with the vast majority in mainland China.