A woman in her late 50s has died of COVID-19, US President Donald Trump has announced, marking the first death due to the new coronavirus in the country.
In a televised speech on Saturday, Trump described the victim as a “medically high-risk patient” and a “wonderful woman”. He said there were 22 people infected with the virus in the US, adding that more cases were likely.
The announcement came shortly after health officials in Washington state issued a news release announcing the death, without giving further details.
A spokesperson for Evergreen Health Medical Center, Kayse Dahl, said the person died in the facility in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland.
State and King County health officials said, “New people [have been] identified with the infection, one of whom died.” They did not say how many new cases there are.
The Governor of Washington state Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency and directed state agencies to use “all resources necessary” to prepare for and respond to the outbreak.
The declaration also allows the use of the Washington National Guard, if necessary.
At a political rally on Friday night in South Carolina, Trump accused Democrats of “politicising” the coronavirus threat and boasted about preventive steps he has ordered in an attempt to keep the virus that originated in China from spreading across the US.
Those steps include barring entry by most foreign nationals who had recently visited China.
In his speech on Saturday, Trump announced he would meet with pharmaceutical companies on Monday to discuss potential vaccines.
The president said his administration was also “thinking about” travel restrictions on the US-Mexico border over the outbreak.
Some Democrats have said Trump could have acted sooner to bolster the US response to the virus. Democratic and Republican legislators also have said his request for an additional $2.5bn to defend against the virus is not enough.