International desk, Mar 01: The U.S. is banning travel from Iran in response to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus and elevating travel warnings to regions of Italy and South Korea.Vice President Mike Pence announced the new restrictions and warnings as President Donald Trump said 22 people in the U.S. have been stricken by the new coronavirus and that additional cases are “likely.” Trump added that he was considering additional restrictions, including closing the U.S. border with Mexico in response to the virus’ spread.
“We want to lower the amount of travel to and from the most impacted areas,” said Alex Azar, the secretary of health and human Services. “This is a basic containment strategy.”
Trump provided an update on the virus after the first reported U.S. death Saturday in Washington state and described the person as being a woman in her late 50s and having a high medical risk.
The governor of Washington state declared a state of emergency Saturday and health officials there clarified later Saturday that it was a man — not a woman — who died from coronavirus.
During a news conference Friday, Washington state health officials said more than 50 people in a nursing facility are sick and being tested for the virus.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee directed state agencies to use “all resources necessary” to prepare for and respond to the coronavirus outbreak. The declaration also allows the use of the Washington National Guard, if necessary.
“We will continue to work toward a day where no one dies from this virus,” the governor vowed.
Health officials in California, Oregon and Washington state are worried about the novel coronavirus spreading through West Coast communities because people are being infected by unknown means. They had not visited an area where there was an outbreak, nor apparently been in contact with anyone who had.
The man who died was in his 50s, had underlying health conditions and no history of travel or contact with a known COVID-19 case, health officials in Washington state said at the news conference. A spokesperson for EvergreenHealth Medical Center, Kayse Dahl, said the person died in the facility in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland.
The health officials reported two cases of coronavirus connected to a long-term care facility in the same suburb, Life Care Center of Kirkland. One is a Life Care worker, a woman in her 40s who is in satisfactory condition at a hospital, and the other is a woman in her 70s and a resident at Life Care who is hospitalized in serious condition. Neither have traveled out of the country.
“In addition, over 50 individuals associated with Life Care are reportedly ill with respiratory symptoms or hospitalized with pneumonia or other respiratory conditions of unknown cause and are being tested for COVID-19,” Seattle and King County officials said. “Additional positive cases are expected.”
On Friday, health officials confirmed further cases of coronavirus in the U.S. in people who didn’t travel internationally or have close contact with anyone who had the virus. The U.S. has a total of about 60 confirmed cases. Trump’s tally appeared to exclude cases of Americans repatriated from China or evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
Trump said healthy Americans should be able to recover if they contract the new virus, as he tried to reassure Americans and global markets spooked by the virus threat.
But Trump encouraged Americans not to alter their daily routines, saying “there’s no reason to panic at all.”
He added he wasn’t altering his routine either. “You’re talking about 22 people right now in this whole very vast country. I think we’ll be in very good shape.”
Trump spoke a day after he denounced criticism of his response to the threat as a “hoax” cooked up by his political enemies. Speaking at a rally in South Carolina he accused Democrats of “politicizing” the coronavirus threat and boasted about preventive steps he’s ordered in an attempt to keep the virus that originated in China from spreading across the United States. Those steps include barring entry by most foreign nationals who had recently visited China.
“They tried the impeachment hoax. … This is their new hoax,” Trump said of Democratic denunciations of his administration’s coronavirus response.
Trump said Saturday he was not trying to minimize the threat of the virus.
“Again, the hoax was used in respect to Democrats and what they were saying,” he said.
Some Democrats have said Trump could have acted sooner to bolster the U.S. response to the virus. Democratic and Republican lawmakers also have said his request for an additional $2.5 billion to defend against the virus isn’t enough. They’ve signaled they will provide substantially more funding.
Trump said Democrats want him to fail and argued that steps he’s taken so far have kept cases to a minimum and prevented virus deaths in the U.S.