The U.S. death toll from the new coronavirus grew to 11 Wednesday, with California announcing its first fatality linked to the viral infection and Washington state reporting its 10th death.
At least 160 people in at least 17 states were infected by Wednesday, including the outbreak in the Seattle area.
New cases were also reported across both coasts, as local and federal governments moved to calm fears, provide resources and make recommendations to vulnerable populations and employees to help combat the spread.
Officials in California’s Placer County, near Sacramento, said an elderly person who tested positive after returning from a San Francisco-to-Mexico cruise had died. The victim had underlying health problems, authorities said.
Washington also announced another death, bringing its total to 10. Most of those who died were residents of Life Care Center, a nursing home in Kirkland, a suburb east of Seattle. At least 39 cases have been reported in the Seattle area, where researchers say the virus may have been circulating undetected for weeks.
Seema Verma, head of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the agency is sending inspectors to Life Care along with experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to figure out what happened and determine whether the nursing home followed guidelines for preventing infections.
Last April, the state fined Life Care $67,000 over infection-control deficiencies following two flu outbreaks that affected 17 patients and staff. An unannounced follow-up inspection in June determined that Life Care had corrected the problems, Verma said.
Meanwhile, public officials in Washington came under pressure to take more aggressive steps against the outbreak, including closing schools and canceling large events. While the state and Seattle have declared emergencies, giving leaders broad powers to suspend activities, they have not issued any orders to do so.
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