Health officials in Washington state said on Saturday a coronavirus patient has died, marking the first death in the U.S. from COVID-19, the illness associated with the virus.
The person who died was a man in his 50s who had underlying health conditions, and there was no evidence he contracted the virus through travel, health officials said.
Shortly after announcement of the death, President Donald Trump at a White House press conference said the United States is issuing more travel restrictions and warnings to help prevent spread of the virus. He also said he is meeting with pharmaceutical executives to discuss work toward a coronavirus vaccine.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee meanwhile declared a state of emergency in response to new cases of COVID-19, directing state agencies to use all resources necessary to prepare for and respond to the outbreak.
“This will allow us to get the resources we need,” Inslee said. “This is a time to take commonsense, proactive measures to ensure the health and safety of those who live in Washington state."
The outbreak in the U.S. is currently limited to only some communities, the CDC said Saturday. “There is not national spread of COVID-19. CDC and the federal government are working to keep it that way,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the Center for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
Health officials said that the man who died was among three new presumptive cases in Washington state, which are cases that test positive locally but with CDC confirmation pending.
He was a patient at a local hospital, and officials are investigating how he contracted the virus.
The other two new presumptive cases in Washington state are both patients at a long-term care facility. One is a woman in her 40s in satisfactory condition, the other a person in their 70s in serious condition.
As of early Saturday, the United States had about 66 cases of coronavirus, including nine people who have recovered and four presumptive cases.
The patient who died was among new cases reported Friday in Washington state as well as Oregon and California. Among the new confirmed or presumptive cases, there were three contracted from an unknown source, bringing the total number of what could be "community spread" cases in the United States to four.
"Community spread" is a term used when someone is infected but the source is unknown. Previously much of the focus was on people who had visited places such as Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began, or who had been in close contact with people who were infected.
The patients from these four cases have no known travel history or exposure to someone who had traveled or been infected. Not all four have been confirmed by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testing, but they tested positive locally.
The CDC adjusted its testing guidance this week to include people with symptoms but with no identified source of exposure.
The first case of COVID-19 in the United States which may involve community spread was confirmed by a CDC test on Wednesday. That patient is at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, California, and involves a woman from Solano County, officials said.
President Donald Trump said at the press conference Saturday that "there's no reason to panic" and the American public does not need to change their daily routines.
He said he will meet with pharmaceutical companies on Monday to talk about a vaccine. "They've already started working on it," he said. "These companies will be coming to the White House."
Inslee said, "It is a sad day in our state as we learn that a Washingtonian has died from COVID-19. Our hearts go out to his family and friends. We will continue to work toward a day where no one dies from this virus.”
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.