SEATTLE — Health officials in Washington state said Sunday night that a second person had died from the coronavirus — a man in his 70s from a nursing facility near Seattle where dozens of people were sick and had been tested for the virus.
Researchers said earlier the virus may have been circulating for weeks undetected in Washington state.
In a statement, Public Health—Seattle & King County said the man died Saturday. On Friday, health officials said a man in his 50s died of coronavirus. Both had underlying health conditions, and both were being treated at a hospital in Kirkland, Washington, east of Seattle.
Washington state now has 12 confirmed cases.
State and local authorities stepped up testing for the illness as the number of new cases grew nationwide, with new infections announced in California, Illinois, Rhode Island, New York and Washington state.
Authorities in the Seattle area reported four new cases Sunday night, including the man who died.
The first U.S. case was a Washington state man who had visited China, where the virus first emerged, but several recent cases in the U.S. have had no known connection to travelers.
In California, two health care workers in the San Francisco Bay area who cared for an earlier coronavirus patient were diagnosed with the virus Sunday, the Alameda and Solano counties said in a joint statement.
The health care workers are both employed at NorthBay VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville, California, and had exposure to a patient treated there before being transferred to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, the statement said. That patient was the first person in the U.S. discovered to have contracted the coronavirus with no known overseas travel.
Elsewhere, authorities announced Sunday a third case in Illinois and Rhode Island and New York’s first cases as worried Americans swarmed stores to stock up on basic goods such as bottled water, canned foods and toilet paper.
The hospitalized patient in Rhode Island is a man in his 40s who had traveled to Italy in February. New York confirmed Sunday that a woman in her late 30s contracted the virus while traveling in Iran. The patient is not in serious condition. She has respiratory symptoms and has been in a controlled situation since arriving in New York, according to a statement from the governor’s office.
As the fallout continued, Vice President Mike Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar sought to reassure the American public that the federal government is working to make sure state and local authorities are able to test for the virus. Both said during a round of TV talk show appearances Sunday that thousands more testing kits had been distributed to state and local officials, with thousands more to come.
“They should know we have the best public health system in the world looking out for them,” Azar said, adding that additional cases will be reported and the overall risk to Americans is low.
As the cases ticked up, some Americans stocked up on basic supplies — particularly in areas with diagnosed cases — and began to take note of the impact on daily life. Stores such as Costco sold out of toilet paper, bottled water and hand sanitizer outside Portland, Oregon, where a case was announced Friday. Sports games and practices were canceled into the coming school week. Some churches said they would not offer communion because of fears of viral spread.
Pence, named by the president to be the point-person overseeing the government’s response, said more than 15,000 virus testing kits had been released over the weekend. And, the administration is working with a commercial provider to distribute 50,000 more, he said.
The vice president said testing was among the first issues raised by governors he’s spoken with so far. Several states have begun their own testing, including Washington state, Oregon and Illinois.
“We’re leaning into it,” Pence said.
Azar said more than 3,600 people already have been tested for coronavirus and the capability exists to test 75,000 people. He forecast a “radical expansion of that” in the coming weeks.
Pence and Azar spoke a day after President Donald Trump approved new restrictions on international travel to prevent the spread within the U.S. of the new virus, which originated in China. There are now more than 80,000 cases worldwide and about 3,000 deaths.
The number of known coronavirus cases in the U.S. had reached at least 80 as of Sunday, counting people evacuated from a cruise ship and the city of Wuhan in China.
Flaccus reported from Portland, Oregon. AP writer Darlene Superville in Washington and Chris Grygiel in Seattle contributed.