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2nd US coronavirus death in Washington state; first New York case reported

With COVID-19 cases reported on both U.S. coasts, Vice President Pence and other officials are reassuring Americans resources will be available.

WASHINGTON — A second death from the new coronavirus has been reported in the U.S., a man in his 70s in the Seattle area with underlying health conditions. And New York state reported its first positive case of the virus, a woman in her late 30s who had traveled to Iran.

Health officials in Washington state said Sunday night that a second person had died from the coronavirus and researchers said it may have been circulating for weeks undetected in the greater Seattle area. 

In a statement Public Health - Seattle & King County said man in his 70s died Saturday. The first U.S. death of coronavirus was a man in his 50s. Both had underlying health conditions and both were being treated at a hospital in Kirkland, Washington, east of Seattle. Washington now has 12 confirmed cases, and the state is also where the nation’s first confirmed infection was reported. 

As the number of coronavirus cases in the United States has grown with new infections in New York, Illinois, Rhode Island and Washington state, Vice President Mike Pence is trying to reassure Americans that the federal government is working to make sure state and local authorities are able to test for the COVID-19 virus in communities. 

Pence's assurances come as research in Washington state suggests the new coronavirus may have been circulating undetected there for weeks. The research was not published in a scientific journal or reviewed by other scientists. 

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The preliminary research in Seattle suggests that the coronavirus may have been circulating undetected in Washington, a finding that could mean hundreds of undiagnosed cases exist in the state. 

State and local authorities are stepping up testing for the illness Sunday as the number of new cases grew nationwide.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted Sunday evening that officials there had learned of the state's first positive case of COVID-19. He said the patient contracted the virus while in Iran and is now isolated. 

In a statement released Sunday night, he said "the patient, a woman in her late 30s, contracted the virus while traveling abroad in Iran, and is currently isolated in her home.

"There is no reason for undue anxiety—the general risk remains low in NY," the governor said on Twitter. "We are diligently managing this situation."

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The number of countries hit by the virus has climbed past 60, and the death toll worldwide reached at least 3,000, The Associated Press reports. Australia and Thailand reported their first deaths Sunday, while the Dominican Republic and the Czech Republic recorded their first infections.

Thailand's first coronavirus death was a 35-year-old Thai man who had contact with foreign tourists in his job as a salesperson. Australia's first reported coronavirus death was a 78-year-old man who was hospitalized after being taken off a ship. He died at a hospital in Perth. 

Iran's Health Ministry raised on Sunday the nationwide death toll from the new coronavirus to 54 as the number of infected cases jumped overnight to 978 people. 

Health Minister Kianoush Jahanpour said new cases were confirmed in several cities, including Mashhad, which is home to Iran's most important Shiite shrine that attracts pilgrims from across the region.

Calls by Iran's civilian government to clerics to close such shrines to the public have not been uniformly followed. Of the more than 1,100 cases in the Middle East, the majority trace back to the Islamic Republic. 

The health ministry urged people to stay away from mass gatherings and limit their travel. The Islamic Republic is preparing for the possibility of “tens of thousands” coming to test for the new coronavirus.

Credit: AP
Travelers wear protective mask as they walk through in terminal 5 at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Sunday, March 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Coronavirus cases have surged in Italy, and France has closed the Louvre Museum as the deadly outbreak that began in China sends fear rising across Western Europe, threatening its tourism industry. 

New fronts in the outbreak opened rapidly over the weekend, deepening the sense of crisis that has already sent financial markets plummeting, emptied the streets in many cities and rewritten the daily routines of millions of people. More than 88,000 worldwide have been infected.

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The World Health Organization has named the illness COVID-19, referring to its origin late last year and the coronavirus that causes it. 

President Donald Trump says the U.S. is “super prepared” for a wider coronavirus outbreak and “there’s no reason to panic.” He spoke Saturday after officials reported the first death from the disease in the U.S. 

Trump and other officials announced the U.S. is banning travel to Iran and urging Americans not to travel to regions of Italy and South Korea where the virus has been prevalent. Public health officials say they mistakenly told Trump and Vice President Mike Pence that the patient who died was a woman. 

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