“Tip of the iceberg”: What we know about the first Covid-19 death in the US

The first Covid-19 death in the US occurred at the EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland, Washington.
The first Covid-19 death in the US occurred at the EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland, Washington.
Image: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
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A man in his 50s in a Seattle suburb died of Covid-19, Washington state officials announced today. It marked the first such reported death from the disease in the US.

The man, who had underlying health conditions, passed away at the EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland. The facility’s medical director of infection control, Frank Riedo, said that area hospitals are seeing more individuals with severe coronavirus symptoms. “This is the tip of the iceberg,” he said, according to AP.

Nearby, the Life Care Center of Kirkland reported that a resident in her 70s was in serious condition from the disease, while a worker in her 40s was in satisfactory condition. Dozens of other individuals associated with the facility are reportedly ill with respiratory symptoms and are being tested for the disease, state officials said, noting they expect more positive cases.

There is no treatment for Covid-19, which is caused by a new coronavirus. Most of the over 2,800 deaths and roughly 83,000 cases have been in China, where the disease originated in the city of Wuhan late last year. But the virus has been spreading rapidly across the world, with Iran, Italy, and South Korea recently reporting significant outbreaks, weakening hopes of containment and leading to a stock market rout this week.

In the US, cases in California, Oregon, and Washington suggest people are being infected despite neither traveling abroad recently nor interacting with anyone who had.

Officials believe the disease spreads much like the flu, via droplets produced when an infected person sneezes or coughs. On phone screens the coronavirus can likely live up to 96 hours.

Most infected people show only mild symptoms and make it through. But some develop pneumonia, with the elderly and individuals with underlying health conditions being particularly vulnerable. That makes nursing homes a concern. The Life Care Center of Kirkland is a long-term facility.

On Monday, US president Donald Trump will meet with pharmaceutical executives to discuss work toward a coronavirus vaccine. At a press conference today, he and vice president Mike Pence, who’s in charge of the administration’s response, announced new travel restrictions and warnings involving Iran, Italy, and South Korea, following an earlier ban on entry to foreign nationals recently in China.