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29 Feb, 2020 18:01

1st US coronavirus death: Trump imposes more travel restrictions, says risk still ‘very low’ after woman dies in Washington state

1st US coronavirus death: Trump imposes more travel restrictions, says risk still ‘very low’ after woman dies in Washington state

President Donald Trump on Saturday addressed fears surrounding the coronavirus, as health officials have announced the first US death from the virus in Washington State.

The first US death from the virus was announced on Saturday by Washington State health officials. No details were given, except that it occurred in King County. 

The deceased was a "medically high-risk patient in her late 50s," President Trump announced at his White House press conference on Saturday afternoon. While admitting more cases within the US are likely, the president said 15 of the 22 citizens who contracted the virus have "recovered fully or they’re well on their way to recovery."

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Trump also announced he is meeting with representatives from pharmaceutical companies at the White House on Monday to discuss a response to the virus, including the creation and distribution of a vaccine.

The president warned the media not to "incite panic because there is no reason to panic." He insisted that contracting the coronavirus is still highly unlikely for most citizens, and stressed it is not guaranteed to be lethal. "If you’re healthy, you’ll probably go through a process and you’ll be fine," Trump said.

Vice President Mike Pence, head of the Coronavirus Task Force, also spoke to the media and announced a Level 4 travel advisory for US citizens. The State Department is issuing the advisory, which is for the parts of Italy and South Korea most affected by the virus. Pence also announced an extension on the travel ban pertaining to Iran, which now includes "any foreign national who has visited Iran in the last 14 days."

The FDA has ramped up its laboratory testing, and more US cases have been reported this week, some of which cannot not be explained by foreign travel – a previous common factor for victims of the virus, which is believed to have begun in Wuhan, China.

The Department of Health previously announced two new cases on Friday evening, including a high-school student in Snohomish County who had not recently traveled. While tests for the virus were positive, they are still waiting on confirmation from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

President Trump downplayed the coronavirus on Friday evening during a rally in North Charleston, South Carolina. He accused the Democratic Party of "politicizing" the virus, and referred to it as "their new hoax," a statement which sparked a backlash from Democrats including presidential hopeful Joe Biden, who called Trump's words "absolutely dangerous."

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Trump announced on Wednesday that he was ramping up efforts to respond to the coronavirus, with Vice President Mike Pence being chosen to lead the charge. He added that the risk to the American people remained "very low," while also noting the "regular flu" claims more lives than the new virus has so far. "We're ready to adapt and ready to do whatever we have to as the disease spreads, if it spreads," he added. The administration has asked for $2.5 billion in emergency funds to respond to the virus, a number which Democrats have criticized as being far too low.

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