On Monday, the Public Health Department in King County, Washington, reported that the county had confirmed three new deaths from the new coronavirus, where an outbreak is occurring at a medical facility, the state-owned State of The Verge reported. There are currently 14 confirmed cases in Jin County, including 5 deaths, two of which have previously been reported. The sixth death in Washington state came from Snohomish County.
The three deaths in King County, Washington, were of a man in his 70s, a woman in her 70s and a woman in her 80s. Two of the dead were patients at Life Care Center, a care facility in Kirkland, Washington. Another new case is a woman in hospital in her 80s and is also linked to the Life Care Center. As a result, the number of cases associated with the Life Care Center increased to nine.
The case at the Life Care Center appears to be the first cluster infection in the United States and has alarmed health experts, as the new coronavirus, which causes COVID-19 disease, is particularly deadly in older adults. Unfortunately, according to a 2003 study, long-term care facilities “provide an ideal environment for the acquisition and spread of infection”. Because of age or potential health conditions, or both, the population is already vulnerable and close, making them more likely to spread the disease.
Washington health officials said Saturday that 27 of the 108 hospitalized and 180 staff members at the Life Care Center have symptoms suspected of being infected with the new coronavirus. In addition, the Washington Post reported that 25 firefighters and two police officers were exposed to the virus, although they had not shown any symptoms. Family visits and visits by volunteers and suppliers have been suspended in response to the outbreak, Kaiser Health News reported. King County will buy a motel to isolate COVID-19 patients.
According to genetic analysis, the virus may have been circulating in Washington state for six weeks. The researchers compared two samples of the virus, one from a Chinese-svisiting Snohomish county in January, and the other from a high school student who was recently diagnosed with no obvious symptoms. Trevor Bedford, a computational biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, says the genetic sequences are almost identical. Although the work is early, Bedford believes there is no good explanation for the similarity because of the abnormal variation in one of the genes.
But most people don’t know the virus is spreading because the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is not actively testing new coronaviruses in people who are unknown to the disease, whether from travel to the affected area or in close contact with infected people. This may mean that the risk of detecting new coronaviruses in the community lags far behind the actual spread of the virus.
Media point out that in the best case, the test will still lag – because most people do not show symptoms of COVID-19 for several days. Therefore, positive testing is critical. But by conducting limited testing, the CDC wasted valuable time preventing outbreaks like the Life Care Center. Now, health officials are scrambling to catch up.
On February 26, California announced the state’s first case of community-borne COVID-19. The patient, from Solano County, was taken to the University of California, Davis Hospital on February 19 and has been on a ventilator, and the team immediately requested a coronavirus test. The CDC did not test patients until February 23. The CDC says it did not reject any test requests.
In addition, it was reported that Vice President Mike Pence of the United States also limited information, he now controls all federal communications about the virus. According to the Washington Post, any federal expert who wants to talk about the disease must now get Pence’s approval. As of this week, the CDC has removed statistics on the number of people tested for the new coronavirus from its website.
Amid all this confusion, a health expert told ProPublica that efforts to contain the disease were “weeks behind.” To determine the extent of the virus’s spread in areas such as Washington and California, health officials were able to randomly sample hundreds of people and find out how many of them tested positive.