| February 29, 2020 03:49 PM
Updated Feb 29, 2020, 04:26 PM
The governor of Washington declared a state of emergency on Saturday.
Gov. Jay Inslee issued the proclamation hours after announcing a coronavirus patient died in Washington, the first known death tied to the COVID-19 illness on American soil.
The proclamation directs state agencies and departments to utilize state resources and do everything reasonably possible to assist affected communities responding to and recovering from COVID-19 cases. It also allows the use of the Washington National Guard, if needed.
“This will allow us to get the resources we need,” Inslee, a Democrat, said in a statement. “This is a time to take common-sense, proactive measures to ensure the health and safety of those who live in Washington state. Our state agency directors have been actively preparing since the nation’s first case appeared in Snohomish County. Washingtonians can be assured we’ve taken this threat seriously and have been working in collaboration with our healthcare partners to develop plans and procedures to prepare for what could likely be a worldwide pandemic.”
The person who died has not been identified but has been described as a patient over the age of 50 who had not traveled recently. President Trump said at a news conference at the White House on Saturday that the person was “medically high-risk.”
The risk of coronavirus infection to most people in the U.S. remains low and most people who get infected don’t have severe symptoms, but the risks and severity are far worse among residents in the home and among people in similar circumstances. People with underlying illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and respiratory symptoms are particularly susceptible to having a severe illness and to being at risk of death, Dr. Tony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a press conference Saturday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out a statement late Friday saying California, Oregon, and Washington state found a least four cases of “community spread” of the new virus, with none of the patients traveling outside the U.S. or coming into contact with those infected.
A skilled nursing facility in Washington state reported on Saturday that at least two people have the coronavirus, and state officials say other residents are reporting similar respiratory symptoms.