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Washington state reports first coronavirus death in U.S.

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Posted at 11:38 AM, Feb 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-29 13:38:58-05

Washington state health officials said Saturday a person has died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. It is the first reported coronavirus death in the United States.

The World Health Organization said earlier this week the risk of the new coronavirus expanding worldwide is now "very high." New cases of COVID-19 are continuing to emerge globally.

Overnight, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it was aware of four new "presumptive positive cases" of COVID-19 in the United States. Four patients tested positive for the new coronavirus using the CDC-developed rRT-PCR, it said.

"They are considered presumptive positive cases pending CDC confirmatory testing," the CDC said. "However, CDC and State and local public health authorities are proceeding with public health investigations and response activities as if these were confirmed cases."

According to the CDC, the four suspected cases were in:

  • California, which announced a second possible instance of community spread, defined as the spread of an illness for which the infection's source is unknown.
  • Oregon, which announced its first possible instance of community spread.
  • Washington state, which announced two presumptive cases – one that is likely linked to travel and one that marks the state's first possible instance of community spread.

A handful of other cases have been detected in the United States through the U.S. public health system.

There are now more than 85,000 cases globally – most of them in China, where the virus originated – and more than 2,900 deaths. As health officials try to contain the virus, it continues to put millions of people in the U.S. on edge and rattle the markets.