First U.S. coronavirus death confirmed in King County at Kirkland hospital

Two people tested positive for the virus at Evergreen Hospital. One died on Feb. 29.

The Washington Department of Health (DOH) confirmed the first presumed coronavirus-related death in the United States, according to a release. The death was on the Eastside.

Two people were brought to the EvergreenHealth in Kirkland late Friday night (Feb. 28). One person died Saturday morning (Feb. 29). The cause must be confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), but the deceased patient and a second patient tested positive at the hospital.

The individual who died was a male in his 50s with underlying health conditions who had no history of travel or contact with a known coronavirus case, according to a press release from the Public Health Department of King County.

“We are working closely with health authorities following the death of a patient who tested positive for coronavirus COVID-19 (coronavirus),” EvergreenHealth said in a written statement sent by spokesperson Julia Irwin. “That patient came to our facility with serious respiratory issues, and following guidelines set by the CDC, EvergreenHealth tested the patient for COVID-19. That test was positive. There is a second patient that also tested positive. That patient is in isolation and is receiving appropriate treatment.”

Additional precautions are being taken.

“We are working with the CDC and the Washington Department of Health to ensure that those who have come into contact with the patient are screened and tested as appropriate,” the hospital statement said.

In the afternoon on Feb. 29, Seattle & King County Public Health announced three cases of coronavirus had been confirmed, including the deceased male.

Two of the confirmed cases are associated with LifeCare nursing facility in Kirkland, the Public Health press release noted, including a health care worker at the facility and a resident of the facility.

The worker is a female in her 40s, currently in satisfactory condition and being treated at Overlake Medical Center in Bellevue and has no known travel outside the U.S. The resident is in her 70s and is in serious condition at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland.

More than 50 people at LifeCare are ill with respiratory issues.

“Additional positive cases are expected,” the press release noted.

“We’re in the process of investigating this situation as an outbreak,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County.

Public Health is currently working with LifeCare to provide care for ill patients while protecting uninfected patients.

The CDC is sending a team of epidemiologists to King County to support efforts to identify, isolate and test all of those who may be at risk because of the new cases, according to a release. Public Health is at the very beginning stages of its investigation and new details and information was expected to emerge over the next days and weeks.

Gov. Jay Inslee and Washington State health officials responded to the news with their own statements.

“It is a sad day in our state as we learn that a Washingtonian has died from COVID-19 (coronavirus). Our hearts go out to his family and friends,” Inslee said. “We will continue to work toward a day where no one dies from this virus.”

Inslee added that the DOH, the Washington State Department of Emergency Management and local and community health partners are strengthening preparedness and response efforts.

“I am committed to keeping Washingtonians healthy, safe and informed,” he said.

“This is a tragic loss of life and we share our heartfelt condolences with the family,” Duchin said. “While the vast majority of cases of COVID-19 are believed to be mild, the virus can be a very serious infection that can lead to death. Protecting the health of our community and supporting the care of health care workers is our top priority.”

King County Executive Dow Constantine said Washington is fortunate to have one of the best public health agencies in the nation.

“We are pulling all available resources into the fight against COVID-19. King County is reviewing all government operations, and we are standing up an Emergency Operations Center to respond appropriately across all agencies and public services,” he said in a release. “I urge businesses and families to plan and take precautions, referring to Public Health for best practices.”

Two other diagnosed coronavirus cases in King and Snohomish counties were announced Friday evening. One is a student at Henry M. Jackson High School in Mill Creek, the other is a woman in her 50s who had traveled to South Korea. Both tested positive for coronavirus and are now in isolation.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been corrected to reflect an accurate number of new cases.


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