First U.S. Coronavirus Death Confirmed in Washington State, Mike Pence Announces New Travel Restrictions On Iran

Several Washington state health agencies confirmed Saturday afternoon that the country's first coronavirus death occurred and that multiple new cases of coronavirus have been detected in the region.

King County Public Health and the Washington Department of Health confirmed the first U.S. death from the COVID-19 illness Saturday. Public information officer Jamie Nixon confirmed to several news outlets that a patient died as a result of a coronavirus-related infection. At least 64 cases have been confirmed inside the U.S. by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through Saturday morning, but more than 85,000 cases have been confirmed worldwide.

"[N]ew people were identified with the infection, one of whom died," wrote several King County and Seattle area doctors in a Washington State Public Health Department announcement Sunday.

Health officials in several states including Washington, California and Oregon warned that at least four cases occurred in patients who had never traveled outside the U.S. and they are unable to confirm the source of the virus. The Federal Drug Administration announced Saturday it is speeding up laboratory tests for COVID-19 in the three West Coast states and confirmed a drug shortage tied to the treatment of the coronavirus illness.

President Donald Trump in a Saturday afternoon press conference touted he and Vice President Mike Pence's task force for conducting "the most aggressive action in modern history" to confront the coronavirus spread.

"It's a tough one but a lot of progress has been made. At this moment, we have 22 patients in the U.S., unfortunately, one person passed away overnight, a wonderful woman, a medically high-risk patient in her late 50s. Four others are very will, thankfully 15 others are recovering and have been released," Trump said. He noted that vaccines and "tremendous amounts of supplies" including masks are being distributed in the U.S.

CDC officials later told reporters that the first victim was in fact a man in his late 50s and not a woman as Trump and Pence had earlier described.

"Additional cases in the United States are likely but healthy individuals should be able to fully recover," Trump added. "So healthy people, if you're healthy, you'll probably go through a process and you'll be fine."

The disease first emerged in Wuhan, China in December of last year but soon spread to more than 60 countries across the globe. South Korea has the second-highest amount of confirmed cases of coronavirus and Italy on Saturday became the first non-Asian country to top 1,000 confirmed cases. In China alone, 2,791 patients have died as a result of the COVID-19 illness, World Health Organization officials announced Friday. Outside of China, 68 people have died, including the death in Washington state.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee issued a statement Saturday afternoon regarding the death: "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 when no one dies from this virus. In partnership with the Washington State Department of Health, the Washington State Department of Emergency Management and local and community health partners, we are strengthening our preparedness and response efforts. I am committed to keeping Washingtonians healthy, safe and informed."

Pence was joined by Dr. Robert Redfield of the CDC and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Aza as he announced expanded travel restrictions over coronavirus, including to Italy, Iran and South Korea.

"First, the president authorized action today to add additional travel restrictions on Iran. ... Iran is already under a travel ban, but we're are expanding existing travel restrictions to include any foreign national who has visited Iran within the last 14 days," Pence said. "We are going to increase, to the highest level advisory — which is Level 4 — advising Americans: Do not travel to specific regions in Italy and South Korea. We are urging Americans to not travel to the areas in Italy and the areas in South Korea that are most affected by the coronavirus."

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Several Washington State health agencies confirmed Saturday afternoon that the country's first coronavirus death occurred and that multiple new cases of coronavirus have been detected in the region. Miguel MEDINA / AFP/Getty

Update: This article was updated to reflect Washington and CDC officials saying the victim was a man in his late 50s rather than a woman as the president announced earlier Saturday afternoon.