Just as the coronavirus makes its way around the world, the U.S. reported its first death from the virus. A man in his 50s from Seattle, Washington who had chronic health issues was the first casualty of the disease. Meanwhile, a cluster outbreak was also reported in Seatle at a long-term care facility. Infections were being reported among both caregivers and patients. The death and the outbreak are unrelated and have no known connection.
The outbreak is occurring at Life Care Center in Kirkland, which is a rehabilitation and skilled nursing care center. Twenty-seven of the facility’s 108 residents and 25 of its 180 staff workers have coronavirus symptoms. Two people from the facility have been hospitalized, one in serious condition and one in satisfactory condition. Officials were moving swiftly to contain the infection and prevent it from spreading beyond the facility. The outbreak reflects the power of the virus to affect the most vulnerable members of the population.
Meanwhile, a Santa Clara County resident was hospitalized for the virus. She was the second case of what authorities are calling community-acquired and transmitted coronavirus, that is, having no connection or risk factors to the original outbreak in China. Moreover, a woman living in the same house as the hospitalized patient also tested positive for the coronavirus. However, she was not showing symptoms. To date, Santa Clara County has had four positive cases of the virus.
Marianna Moles, a Santa Clara Country Public Health Department spokesperson, said: “We expect more cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in our county and have been preparing for community transmission.”
Oregon has also reported its first coronavirus case of unknown, or community-acquired origin. The disease was confirmed in a Lake Oswego school employee, and the school has been closed for precautionary measures.
Officials acknowledge that the virus is spreading, particularly along the West Coast in bigger cities.
The Center of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases issued a briefing on the developing situation. “Right now, we still judge the general risk to the American public to be low, and that includes residents of long-term care facilities. But those who are older and medically fragile are at a higher risk if it spreads,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the center’s director.
The U.S. government has now issued travel restrictions to help curb the spread of the virus. Vice President Pence said the administration has issued the highest warning and has advised that travelers not visit South Korea or Italy. Both countries are seeing high numbers of infections. Travelers coming from the countries can expect to be screened. In the meantime, foreigners who’ve visited Iran are temporarily banned from entering the U.S.
According to the World Health Organization, there are now well over 85,000 known cases of the coronavirus appearing in 53 countries. South Korea, Italy, and Iran have seen sudden outbreaks of the contagion. Messonnier said Americans need to prepare to reduce the number of deaths from the disease.
Currently, the CDC has 75,000 available test kits to test for the virus.