MONDAY, March 2, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Officials in Washington State said Monday that three more people have died from coronavirus at the same nursing home in the town of Kirkland, bringing the total number of fatalities at the center to four.
That brings the state’s death toll to six, according to state health department’s website.
While most people with robust immune systems appear to recover from COVID-19, frail and elderly nursing home residents may be at particular danger, experts note. According to the New York Times, three more patients from the Life Care Center in Kirkland are currently in critical condition.
The facility has about 108 residents and 180 staff members, CNN reported.
Officials in Seattle say special isolation centers are being opened to house people who may have had contact with people already affected by the new coronavirus.
Adding to concerns, at least two dozen new U.S. cases of coronavirus were reported in multiple states across the country over the weekend.
Florida, which reported its first two cases on Sunday, has declared a state of emergency, CNN reported. Meanwhile, five new cases were reported in California.
In just over two days, the U.S. case count has climbed from 65 to 91, CNN reported.
Scientists say that genetic analysis of the virus in Washington State suggests the coronavirus may have been spreading within the community for as long as six weeks before the first case was detected, the Times reported.
On Saturday, the Trump administration placed travel restrictions on three foreign countries that are battling COVID-19 outbreaks.
A complete travel ban was issued for Iran, while the highest-level travel advisory was issued for parts of Italy and South Korea. The travel advisory urges Americans to avoid all nonessential travel to affected areas of those two countries.
The U.S. developments came after the World Health Organization on Friday raised its risk assessment of the new coronavirus’ spread to “very high.” Cases of infection have now been spotted in 65 countries and on every continent except Antarctica.
Also on Friday, Nigeria announced the first case of coronavirus in sub-Saharan Africa, identified in an Italian contractor who fell ill upon returning to his workplace north of Lagos.
“We are on the highest level of alert or highest level of risk assessment in terms of spread and in terms of impact,” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program, said during a media briefing in Geneva on Friday. “This is a reality check for every government on the planet: Wake up. Get ready. This virus may be on its way and you need to be ready. You have a duty to your citizens, you have a duty to the world to be ready.”
As of Monday, WHO has reported nearly 89,000 cases of coronavirus worldwide, including more than 3,000 deaths, the vast majority of which have occurred in China, where the outbreak began.
In the United States, efforts are underway to prepare for what most experts say is an inevitable large-scale domestic outbreak of coronavirus. On Friday, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said President Trump might invoke a 1950 Korean War-era law, the Defense Production Act, to ramp up production of medical supplies needed in an outbreak, the Times reported. Those supplies would include more than 300 million high-tech N95 face masks for use by health care personnel.
The first U.S. case of coronavirus of “unknown origin” — where a patient who had neither travelled abroad nor had contact with a person already known to be infected — surfaced in a woman in northern California last Wednesday.
U.S. interventions, global spread
Meanwhile, schools across America are canceling trips abroad and preparing online courses as they brace for the possibility that coronavirus could spread into their communities, the Associated Press reported. Many are also preparing for possible school closures that could stretch for weeks or longer.
On Wednesday, President Trump tapped Vice President Mike Pence to lead the U.S. response to a potential coronavirus pandemic.
Internationally, hopes of containing the coronavirus are fading fast.
South Korea and Iran are each battling major outbreaks of COVID-19. In Europe, a similar fight is raging in Italy, even as new cases were recorded in other European countries, the Times reported. In Japan, a state of emergency was declared Friday in a northern province because of the growing number of coronavirus cases there, the AP reported. Japan has also taken the unusual step of closing all schools for the month of March to protect children.
On Wednesday, Brazil announced that it had identified the first case of COVID-19 in Latin America, and on Friday Mexico announced it had its first two cases.
In Wednesday’s press conference in which Trump appointed Pence to head the U.S. response to coronavirus, Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reminded Americans that the best way to protect themselves and others is to take the same sort of precautions as they would during cold and flu season.
“It’s spread through coughs and sneezes, and so those everyday sensible measures we tell people to do every year with the flu are important here — covering your cough, staying home when you’re sick and washing your hands,” Schuchat said. “Tried and true, not very exciting measures, but really important ways you can prevent the spread of respiratory viruses.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus.
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