A patient infected with the novel coronavirus in Washington state has died, a state health official said Saturday, marking the first death due to the virus in the United States.
The patient was a man in his 50s who had underlying health conditions, according to Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, health officer for Seattle and King County, Washington. County health officials became aware of the case on Friday, he said.
“I want to assure that family they are on the hearts of every American,” Vice President Mike Pence said in a press briefing Saturday.
There was no evidence the patient had close contact with an infected person or a relevant travel history that would have exposed the patient to the virus, said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at the White House Saturday, suggesting the patient became ill through community spread.
While this is the first death in the United States from the coronavirus, it is not the first death of an American. A 60-year-old US citizen died earlier this month in the city of Wuhan, China, where the virus first appeared in late December.
President Donald Trump and US officials previously said in a press briefing that the patient was a woman. A senior administration official later blamed the mix up on Redfield, who tweeted later Saturday that the “CDC erroneously identified the patient as a female” during a briefing with Trump and Pence.
US officials urged Americans not to panic.
“We respectfully ask the media and politicians and everybody else involved not do anything to incite the panic, because there’s no reason to panic at all,” Trump said.
“It’s important to remember,” Azar said, “for the vast majority of individuals who contract the novel coronavirus, they will experience mild to moderate symptoms, and their treatment will be to remain at home, treating their symptoms, the way they would a severe cold, or the flu.”
The US is expanding travel restrictions in response to the coronavirus, Pence said.
The administration is expanding existing travel restrictions on Iran to include foreign nationals who had visited Iran in the last 14 days, the Vice President said. The US will increase travel advisories for Italy and South Korea to Level 4 — the highest level — advising Americans not to travel to specific regions in those countries.