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US first coronavirus death is man in King County, Washington

  • A male in his 50s in Washington state has died from the coronavirus — the first death on US soil.
  • The virus has infected nearly 86,000 people, mostly in China.
  • At least 69 Americans have been diagnosed with the virus, the majority of whom are repatriated citizens from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A man in his 50s in Washington state has died of the coronavirus — the first coronavirus death on US soil, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed on Saturday. 

The man had underlying health problems that put him at high risk of developing a severe case of the virus, according to state health officials. He died at EvergreenHealth, a regional healthcare network based in Seattle.

“It is a sad day in our state as we learn that a Washingtonian has died from COVID-19,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to his family and friends. 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 confirmed that the man was one of two people who’d been treated for “severe respiratory illness” there and tested positive for the coronavirus last night. The other is a woman in her 70s who’s in serious condition and has been placed in isolation. Neither had a history of travel to China, according to the letter, which was obtained by KIRO.

The woman is a member of a long-term care facility in King County, Washington. On a Saturday press call, King County public health officer Jeffrey Duchin said that a healthcare worker at the facility had been infected as well. The worker had no known travel history to China.

Approximately 27 out of 108 residents at the facility and 25 of the 180 staff members have shown symptoms of the virus, Duchin said.

Before Saturday, 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 in Snohomish County 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 in Snohomish County who was diagnosed on January 21. 

The man who died on Saturday was tested using a CDC kit that had recently been sent to the Washington state public health lab.

“If we had the ability to test earlier, I’m sure we would have identified patients earlier,” Duchin said on the call.

The CDC said the risk to the US public remains low, but the agency may recommend canceling large public events in Washington state if the virus spreads further there. 

In total, the US has at least 69 confirmed coronavirus cases, most among people who were repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

Read more: 

Mapping the coronavirus outbreak: Where in the world — and the US — the disease has spread

Chinese social-media platform WeChat saw spikes in the terms ‘SARS,’ ‘coronavirus,’ and ‘shortness of breath,’ weeks before the first cases were confirmed, a study suggests

Wife of first US service member to test positive for the coronavirus has also been infected

At least 4 of the dozens of US coronavirus cases are not linked to overseas travel but are likely the result of ‘community spread’

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