SEATTLE — Two people have died from coronavirus in Washington state. These are the first known deaths from COVID-19 in the United States. At least 13 people have tested positive in western Washington.
The first victim was a man in his 50s with underlying health conditions. He was admitted with serious respiratory issues and tested positive for the virus. He died at EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland.
The man had no history of travel outside of the U.S. or known contact with anyone who had COVID-19. He is also not connected to the possible outbreak at a nursing facility in Kirkland.
The second victim was a man in his 70s. He also had underlying health conditions. He died at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland on Feb. 29.
Confirmed COVID-19 cases
There were at least 13 presumptively positive cases of COVID-19 in Washington state as of March 2, according to State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy.
So far, there are 10 cases in King County and three in Snohomish County.
Preliminary research in Seattle suggests the coronavirus may have been circulating for weeks undetected in Washington state, according to the Associated Press. It's a finding that could mean hundreds of undiagnosed cases exist in the state that was home to the nation’s first confirmed infection and the first two deaths.
Patients at Life Care Center
At least six cases are connected to Life Care Center, a nursing facility in Kirkland.
The first among those diagnosed was a woman in her 40s who is a health care worker at Life Care. She is in satisfactory condition at Overlake Hospital and hasn't had any travel outside of the U.S.
Now, four other cases out of Life Care Center have been confirmed, with one case being deadly. Most of those who tested positive were elderly and already had underlying health conditions. Many of those who tested positive are in critical condition at the hospital.
There are over 50 individuals associated with Life Care Center who have respiratory symptoms or who are hospitalized with pneumonia and undergoing testing for COVID-19.
“Current residents and associates are being monitored closely, and any with symptoms or who are potentially exposed are quarantined. As a precaution, all visits to the facility from families, volunteers or vendors are not allowed,” said officials with Life Care Center of Kirkland.
Public Health officials are investigating this as a possible outbreak at Life Care Center and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is sending a team to support local health experts.
At least nine western Washington schools and one college will be closed for cleaning Monday out of an "abundance of caution" over coronavirus.
Bothell's Frank Love Elementary will be closed Monday after a staff member showed flu-like symptoms. On Tuesday, March 3, all schools in the Northshore School District will be closed for cleaning and to provide training for teachers on remote learning.
The Kent School District announced Covington Elementary School and Kentwood High School will be closed Monday after an adult family member with connections to both schools had flu-like symptoms.
Henry M. Jackson High School in Mill Creek will be closed Monday after a student tested positive for the virus.
Hazen High School in Renton will also be closed on Monday for deep cleaning after a parent and student at Hazen began experiencing flu-like symptoms. They are being tested for coronavirus but those results have not come back yet.
Lake Washington Institute of Technology will be closed on Monday and Tuesday for cleaning and disinfecting after a group of nursing students visited Life Care Center in Kirkland. The college is also canceling large events.
State of emergency
Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency on Saturday in response to the new cases of COVID-19 and directed state agencies to use all resources necessary to prepare and respond to the outbreak.
"It is a sad day in our state as we learn that a Washingtonian has died from COVID-19. Our hearts go out to their family and friends. We will continue to work toward a day where no one dies from this virus,” said Gov. Inslee. "I am committed to keeping Washingtonians healthy, safe and informed."
King County Executive Dow Constantine has activated the King County Emergency Operations Center to help handle COVID-19 cases and coordinate with cities across the region.
King County Metro also set up an Incident Management Team to develop policy recommendations, operational strategies and protocols for sustaining Metro operations in all contingencies.
"Currently, if there are reports of unsanitary conditions on any of our buses, Metro Transit will immediately pull that bus from operations and sanitize that bus before it returns to operations. Metro cleans, vacuums each vehicle every day and that will continue," said Constantine.
Sound Transit crews are putting a focus on cleaning vehicles and facilities more deeply and more frequently. Sound Transit advises riders to take precautions for illnesses and to stay at home and avoid public places if they experience potential symptoms.
A new Washington call center has been set up to answer your questions about COVID-19. If you have questions about how the virus spreads, what is being done in Washington state, or what you can do if you have symptoms, call 1-800-525-0127 and press #.
As of the morning of March 2, there were 88 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, 43 of which were contracted in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The investigation into the spread in Washington state, Oregon, and California is in its early stages.
Most people in the country have little risk of contracting coronavirus, according to Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. However, some have increased risk depending on their exposure and people with weakened immune systems, conditions, or illnesses are at a greater risk.
What you can do
As COVID-19 cases continue to be identified in the state and globally, health officials said it's important to maintain proper health hygiene.
This means washing hands with soap and water, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth, avoiding large crowded areas if possible, and most importantly staying home from work or school if you're sick.
What are coronavirus symptoms?
The symptoms of coronavirus are similar to the flu or colds. Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, according to the Washington State Department of Health.
The severity of symptoms ranges significantly. Some cases are very mild with symptoms similar to the common cold, and some cases are more like severe pneumonia that require hospitalization.
Most deaths have been reported in older adults who had other health conditions, according to the Department of Health.
Symptoms may appear as soon as two days after being exposed to the coronavirus or as long as 14 days.
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