A Seattle-area resident is the first person in the United States to die from a novel coronavirus infection, Washington state officials announced this morning.
"It is a sad day in our state as we learn that a Washingtonian has died from COVID-19," Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. "Our hearts go out to his family and friends. We will continue to work toward a day where no one dies from this virus."
The death in King County, Wash. comes one day after officials in Oregon, Washington and California announced new cases of coronavirus that appear to be locally transmitted. In all three states, the people diagnosed with the disease had not traveled overseas, and had no contact with people believed to be sick (such as people in quarantine or being monitored after international travel).
That suggests the virus is being transmitted stateside—a key development that is likely to change daily life in the Pacific Northwest.
The Oregon case is a person who works at Forest Hills Elementary School in Lake Oswego. State health officials believe the person could have exposed students and teachers. The elementary school is closed until Wednesday.
UPDATE, 6:15 pm: Little information has been released about the man who died. Health officials say he was in his 50s, had underlying medical conditions, and had been treated in a hospital in Kirkland, Wash.
Washington state officials also revealed another alarming development: The two other people suspected to have coronavirus in Kirkland are a resident and worker in a nursing home. More than 50 people at the Life Care Center have developed symptoms of respiratory illness, although it's not clear that all the illness is coronavirus.
The disease's fatality rates are significantly higher for elderly people than any other demographic. That means in both Washington and Oregon—where a person with coronavirus worked at an elementary school—the disease is emerging in places where vulnerable people are packed in close quarters.