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2nd U.S. patient dies from COVID-19; three states confirm first cases

President Donald Trump on Sunday announced new COVID-19 screening procedures for people traveling to the United States from high-risk countries. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
President Donald Trump on Sunday announced new COVID-19 screening procedures for people traveling to the United States from "high-risk" countries. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

March 1 (UPI) -- A second person in the United States has died from the coronavirus as Florida, New York and Rhode Island confirm first infections, health officials said Sunday.

The Washington State Department of Health reported a second patient in the state infected with COVID-19 died on Saturday, the day it reported the nation's first death from the virus.

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The death occurred in Seattle and King County, where officials said the man, who was in his 70s, died at EvergreenHealth.

The death was announced in an update confirming the county had four new cases, all of elderly patients, bringing the county's total to 10, including the two deaths.

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As the death was being confirmed, Florida announced two presumptive cases, prompting Gov. Ron DeSantis to issue a public health emergency, authorizing the state's health officer to "take any action necessary to protect the public health."

Among other measures, the executive order appoints the Florida Department of Health as the lead agency to coordinate the state's response, as well as direct it to monitor all persons under investigation for a minimum of 14 days and to use its discretion concerning quarantine, isolation and other health interventions.

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The executive order was issued after an adult resident of Hillsborough County and an adult of Manatee County were listed as presumptive cases, which have to be confirmed through testing by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The Florida Health Department announced the infections via Twitter, stating the two patients have been isolated and "appropriately cared for."

The department said in a statement that while one patient had recently traveled to Italy, which is combating a rapidly growing cluster of the disease, the other had no travel history to countries badly hit by the virus.

"The Florida Department of Health is working closely with the patient, their close contacts and healthcare providers to isolate and monitor persons who may have been exposed to COVID-19 and implement testing of anyone who may develop COVID-19 symptoms," it said.

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Despite the two presumptive cases, the immediate threat to the public remains low, it said.

In a statement, Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees said the state is working with the CDC and local medical providers to ensure the patients were receiving proper treatment and that anyone who has come into contact with them is following protocols to limit or stop any further spread.

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"This is the scenario that we prepared for every day in public health," he said.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed the state's first COVID-19 infection in a patient who had recently returned to the United States from coronavirus-stricken Iran.

Cuomo announced the patient, a woman in her 30s, was confirmed infected with COVID-19 in a statement, explaining the woman was not in serious condition and has been in "a controlled situation" since arriving in New York.

"There is no cause for surprise -- this was expected," he said. "As I said from the beginning, it was a matter of when, not if, there would be a positive case of novel coronavirus in New York."

The general risk to New York residents is low, he said, telling the public "there is no reason for undue anxiety."

Earlier, the New York City Health Department said it was investigating two suspected infections of the virus.

The Rhode Island Department of Health announced late Sunday the state's second presumptive infection after declaring its first earlier in the day.

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In a statement, the department said two presumed infections and a third woman being tested for the virus had traveled to Italy in mid-February as part of a European trip organized by the Saint Raphael Academy, which will be closed for the remainder of the week.

The state's first presumptive case was identified as a man in his 40s while the second was said to be a teenager. The woman being tested is a staff member Achievement First Academy in Cranston.

"All three people went on the same trip to Italy," said Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott. "This is precisely why we are being so aggressive in identifying contacts, ensuring monitoring and testing people who are symptomatic."

Meanwhile, the confirmations came as San Antonio, Texas, Mayor Ron Nirenberg announced the CDC had mistakenly released a patient who later confirmed positive for the virus.



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The patient was among hundreds of U.S. citizens who were evacuated on government-chartered flights early this month from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the global outbreak.

The unidentified person was released Saturday after being asymptomatic and meeting all of the CDC"s criteria for release, the CDC said.

But, after the patient's release, results on a subsequent sample tested "weakly positive," it said.

"The discharged patient had some contact with others while out of isolation, and CDC and local public health partners are following up to trace possible exposures and notify them of their potential risk," the statement read.

Nirenberg said the CDC's release of the patient was "unacceptable."

"We will hold the CDC accountable to providing complete transparency for the public," he said.

Earlier Sunday, President Donald Trump announced new screening procedures for travelers entering the United States from countries with growing clusters of COVID-19.

"In addition to screening travelers 'prior to boarding' from certain designated high-risk countries, or areas within those countries, they will also be screened when they arrive in America," Trump wrote on Twitter.

Trump on Saturday had announced that coronavirus-hit countries including Italy, South Korea, Iran and the epicenter of the coronavirus, China, would face increased screening for passengers leaving for the United States.

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Katie Miller, a spokeswoman for Vice President Mike Pence, told CNN the administration is looking to expand the restrictions further if necessary.

"There is already screening for those coming into the United States for those who have been in China in the last 14 days," Miller said. "This will be expanded to Italy and South Korea. Additionally, we are currently working on exit screening from South Korea, Italy and other European Nations as needed."

Pence, who was appointed by Trump last week to head the U.S. response to the virus, said Sunday there could be more deaths after Washington confirmed the death of a man in his late 50s on Saturday.

"For most people that contract the coronavirus, they will recover. They will deal with a respiratory illness, we'll get them treatment," he said, citing information he received from National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci. "But for people that have other conditions that would militate toward a worse outcome than that, we could have more. We could have more sad news. But the American people should know the risk for the average American remains low."

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There were 22 confirmed and presumptive positive cases of the virus in the United States as of Saturday, according to the CDC. There are an additional 47 cases of people repatriated to the United States from the Diamond Princess cruise ship and Wuhan, China.

Of the cases of people not repatriated, nine are person-to-person spread, including three confirmed, according to the CDC. Some of these cases are considered "community spread," meaning they didn't have relevant travel history or exposure to another known patient with COVID-19. The first case of this type was confirmed Wednesday in California.

Late Saturday, the Illinois Department of Public Health and Cook County Department of Public Health announced that one Illinois patient has tested positive for COVID-19 and is in isolation.

Previously, Illinois had two cases, and both patients made a full recovery, according to the state health agency.

Pence on Sunday responded to concerns about a lack of testing kits for the virus, saying 15,000 kits have been released with plans to send out more than three times more.

"The FDA has approved a testing regimen that state and local officials can be using," he said. "And beyond that, we actually are working with a commercial provider with new testing framework to send another 50,000 kits out."

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Amid a shortage of face masks nationwide, U.S. Surgeon General Jerone Adams urged people to stop buying them.

"Seriously people -- STOP BUYING MASKS!," he posted on Twitter on Saturday night. "They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can't get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!"

He said the immediate health risk is considered low, and there are "simple steps" to stay healthy.

The surgeon general said signs and symptoms are fever, cough and shortness of breath.

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