Seattle-area officials report new coronavirus deaths, bringing US total to 6

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Frank Riedo, Medical Director of Infection Control at Evergreen Health Hospital speaks speaks following the death of a a King County, Washington resident due to novel coronavirus (COVID-19) during a press conference in Seattle, Washington.

Jason Redmond | AFP | Getty Images

At least four new patients have died from COVID-19 in Washington state, bringing the total number of deaths in the U.S. to at least six as the coronavirus spreads throughout local communities around Seattle, local health officials said Monday.

Public health officials near Seattle reported the nation’s first two deaths in a nearby suburb and several new cases over the weekend. Local officials said that about 50 residents and employees of a nursing care facility were being tested for the new coronavirus after several other people there tested positive.

The outbreak there worsened on Monday after local health officials reported that three residents of Life Care Center, a skilled nursing facility in Kirkland, Washington, were among the deceased. The virus has also spread to a woman in her 40s who works at the facility. She’s currently in the hospital, officials said. 

“Unfortunately, we are starting to find more COVID-19 cases here in Washington that appear to be acquired locally here in Washington,” Washington state health officer Dr. Kathy Lofy told reporters at a press conference. “We now know that the virus is actively spreading in some communities.”

At the press conference, Lofy originally announced five total deaths in the area until Dr. Ettore Palazzo, the chief medical and quality officer at EvergreenHealth where several patients are being treated, announced a sixth death that state health officials didn’t know about.

“So six should be the correct number,” Lofy said. “We were, at the department, aware of the five deaths from King County. We had not received the report about the Snohomish County patient just yet … Apologize for that.”

Washington state currently has at least 18 cases, 14 of which are in King County where the nursing facility is located and four in Snohomish County, she said. There are 29 other cases pending test results, officials said. 

Five of the deaths are in King County with another fatality in Snohomish County, local officials said. 

“At this time we have not detected COVID-19 cases outside of King and Snohomish Counties, but given the movement of people around our state it is possible the virus is spreading in other counties, too,” Lofy said. The state’s public health laboratory has the capacity to test about 200 specimens a day and the University of Washington will start testing for COVID-19 Monday or Tuesday, she said.  

King County Public Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin said local physicians are starting to identify patients they previously weren’t able to test due to stringent federal testing guidelines. The cases being identified now are seriously ill patients, so a majority of the active cases are probably going undetected, he said. 

“At some point, we’re going to be shifting our approach from counting every case to focusing on outbreaks, perhaps cases that occur at hospitals,” Duchin said, “and we won’t be able to do the kind of individual case follow up and case management that we’re doing early on during this so called containment phase of the epidemic.” 

Seattle-area officials are setting up a coronavirus hotline and looking to buy a motel to convert into a quarantine facility. They are also placing modular housing previously used for oil workers in Texas at several locations around the area that can accommodate  at least 100 people, they said. 

This is breaking news. Check back for updates.

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