Coronavirus live updates: First US death reported in Washington state, officials say

President Donald Trump on Saturday identified a Washington state “high-risk” female patient in her 50s as the first death in the U.S. from the coronavirus outbreak.

Health officials in Washington state had already announced a death but did not specifically identify the individual. They earlier noted that one patient in her 50s in King County had tested positive for the virus.

Trump called the victim a “wonderful woman” and said she died overnight. The person died in King County, Washington, according to the state’s Department of Health.

Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the new coronavirus task force, expressed his condolences to the woman’s family.

Trump said there are 22 patients in the U.S. who have been confirmed as having the virus. He said 15 of them are either recovered fully “or well on their way.”

He told reporters that more cases of the virus in the U.S. are “likely,” but that “healthy individuals should be able to fully recover.” 

“So healthy people, if you’re healthy, you will probably go through a process, and you’ll be fine,” the president said.

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Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement Saturday that it is a “sad day” and that officials will continue to strengthen preparedness and response efforts. “We will continue to work toward a day where no one dies from this virus,” the governor said.

The Washington state death comes a day after health officials in California, Oregon and Washington state reported four new apparent cases of the novel coronavirus, named COVID-19, raising concerns that it is spreading through West Coast communities.

Two of the latest cases are a high school student in Everett, Washington, and an employee at a Portland, Oregon-area school. Neither had recently traveled overseas or had any known close contact with a traveler or an infected person.

The emergence of the San Jose, California, patient “indicates that there is evidence of community transmission but the extent is still not clear,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Health Officer for Santa Clara County and Director of the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department. 

“This case does signal to us that it’s now time to shift how we respond to the novel coronavirus,” she said.

Here’s the latest on the outbreak of COVID-19:

Health official: Stop buying face masks

Pence said the U.S. government has contracted with the 3M Company to produce 35 million additional face masks per month, with high-risk health workers given priority for them.

The surgeon general on Saturday urged the public to stop buying masks, warning that it takes away important resources from health care professionals and won’t help against the spread of the coronavirus

“Seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS!” the surgeon general, Jerome M. Adams, said in a tweet on Saturday morning. “They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if health care providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”

Travel advisory for Italy, South Korea raised 

The Trump administration is urging Americans to avoid travel to parts of Italy and South Korea amid growing concern about the spread of coronavirus.

Pence said Saturday that the U.S. has raised the travel warning to level 4 — its most severe warning — regarding travel to affected areas of Italy and South Korea. 

Pence also said restrictions on travel to Iran have been expanded. The existing travel ban on Iran has been expanded to restrict travel for any foreign national that has visited Iran in the last 14 days, Pence said.

– Morgan Hines

UConn recalls 88 study abroad students from Italy

The University of Connecticut suspended its study aboard program in Italy on Saturday and notified its 88 students there to return to the U.S. immediately.

UConn said on its website that it was responding to new guidance by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which issued a Warning Level 3 on Friday that recommends Americans avoid all non-essential travel to China, South Korea, Italy and Iran because of the coronavirus outbreaks.. 

UConn said its students in Italy would be provided online and remote learning opportunities in the U.S. to allow them to complete their academic requirements. 

China sees slowdown in new infections

China, where the outbreak began in December, has seen a slowdown in new infections and on Saturday morning reported 427 new cases over the past 24 hours along with 47 additional deaths. The city at the epicenter of the outbreak, Wuhan, accounted for the bulk of both.

New cases in mainland China have held steady at under 500 for past four days, with almost all of them in Wuhan and its surrounding Hubei province.

With the number of discharged patients now greatly exceeding those of new arrivals, Wuhan now has more than 5,000 spare beds in 16 temporary treatment centers, Ma Xiaowei, director of the National Health Commission, told a news conference in Wuhan on Friday.

The coronavirus outbreak had infected more than 84,000 people and killed nearly 3,000 people globally as of Saturday morning, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

South Korea has recorded the most cases outside of China, and Iran has seen the most deaths outside the nation.

Frances bans indoor gatherings of more than 5K 

France is banning all indoor public gatherings of more than 5,000 people to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Health Minister Olivier Veran announced the measures following special government meetings Saturday, France 24 reported. All public gatherings in the Oise region north of Paris are being banned completely.

In addition, Sunday’s Paris half-marathon will not take place as scheduled.

“These measures are provisional and we will undoubtedly have to modify them over time,” Véran said. “They are restrictive measures and we hope that they last for some time because that would allow us to contain the spread of the virus.”

Two people have died in France from the virus-related illness, a 60-year-old French teacher and an 80-year-old Chinese tourist.

California receives additional test kits

The California Department of Public Health said Friday that the state will receive enough kits from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to test up to 1,200 people a day for the COVID-19 virus.

The announcement followed a complaint by Gov. Gavin Newsom to federal health officials that the state had already exhausted its initial 200 test kits.

WHO labels virus risk ‘very high’

The coronavirus outbreak continued to spread worldwide Saturday, a day after the World Health Organization increased its coronavirus risk assessment to “very high.”

“This is a reality check for every government on the planet: Wake up. Get ready,” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program, said Friday.

The coronavirus outbreak had infected more than 84,000 people and killed nearly 3,000 people globally as of Saturday morning, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

China, though hardest hit, has seen lower numbers of new infections, with 327 additional cases reported Friday, bringing the country’s total to 78,824. South Korea has recorded the most cases outside of China, and Iran has seen the most deaths outside the nation.

Iran preparing to test ‘tens of thousands’

Iran is preparing for the possibility of “tens of thousands” of people getting tested for the virus as the number of confirmed cases spiked again Saturday, an official said, underscoring the fear both at home and abroad over the outbreak in the Islamic Republic.

The virus and the COVID-19 illness it causes have killed 43 people out of 593 confirmed cases in Iran, Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said. The new toll represents a jump of 205 cases – a 150% increase from the 388 reported the day before.

But the number of known cases versus deaths would put the virus’ death rate in Iran at over 7%, much higher than other countries. That’s worried experts at the World Health Organization and elsewhere that Iran may be underreporting the number of cases now affecting it.

– AP

South Korea urges citizens to stay indoors

South Korea urged its citizens Saturday to stay home and avoid public gatherings to try to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

“We have asked you to refrain from taking part in public events, including a religious gathering or protest, this weekend,” vice health minister Kim Kang-lip told said during a briefing, according to Reuters.

The Korean Medical Association likewise advised “social distancing.”

“Cancel all plans, and refrain from non-essential outings as much as possible,” the doctors’ group said, according to The Korea Herald.

South Korea added 813 new cases Saturday, raising the total to 3,150. It has reported 17 deaths from the virus.

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