A man in the Washington state of the US with underlying health issues became the country’s first fatality from coronavirus, officials said on Saturday, as the Donald Trump administration stepped up efforts to combat the spread of the global outbreak.
The patient, who was in his 50s and chronically ill prior to contracting COVID-19, died at EvergreenHealth Hospital in Kirkland, near Seattle, and officials are unsure how he was exposed to the virus, said Jeffrey Duchin, head of the Washington health department's communicable disease unit. The state has recorded two other “presumptive” coronavirus cases at a long-term care facility in Kirkland where more than 50 residents and staff could be showing symptoms, he said.
The two cases at the Kirkland facility were a health care worker in her 40s who is in satisfactory condition, and a woman in her 70s who lived there and is in serious condition.
Vice-President Mike Pence defended the US administration’s handling of the epidemic amid rising criticism of the state of America’s preparedness.
Pence and Health Secretary Alex Azar made the rounds of Sunday talk shows with the message that risks from the disease remain low for most Americans, while promising to make up for testing shortfalls.