Health officials in Oregon have announced the state’s first presumptive case of COVID-19, which is also the third U.S. case not linked to international travel or contact with other people infected with the disease.
Not to be outdone, Washington state officials announced just over an hour later that they had identified two new cases — one of which is a high school student with no travel history.
The Oregon Health Authority said Friday that the patient, a resident of Washington County, began experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 on Feb. 19. A test sample was collected Friday and testing began hours later.
Officials say the origin of the infection is still unknown, and are treating it as a likely case of “community spread.”
“Our first concern is for this individual, to make sure they’re being cared for and is able to recover,” Oregon Health Authority director Patrick Allen said in a statement.
“Our next priority is finding out who this individual had contact with and make sure they know about their risks, and to let them know how they can get care if they need it. We said this was a fast-moving situation, and we’ve proved that to be true.”
The infected person is being isolated and cared for at the Kaiser Permanente Westside Medical Center in Hillsboro, officials said.
The person is also employed at a school in Clackamas County and may have exposed students and staff there, they add. The school is being closed to allow officials to investigate and warn employees and families of children who attend the school about next steps.
Other close contacts of the case are being monitored by state health officials.
In Washington state, health officials said the case of unknown origin involved a teenager in Snohomish County who went to hospital with symptoms on Monday.
The teen is being isolated at home, while officials are working with the local school district to ensure staff and students at Jackson High School in Mill Creek, south of Everett, are safe.
The school will be closed Monday to allow for three days of “deep cleaning” that will begin Saturday, health officials said.
Snohomish County is the home of the country’s very first COVID-19 case, who has since recovered.
The second new Washington state case is a woman in her 50s from King County who had travelled to South Korea, where cases have exploded to nearly 3,000.
The two states’ announcements came hours after California health officials identified a second COVID-19 case of unknown origin in that state.
The case in San Jose, a woman in her 60s, was itself confirmed a day after the state said a woman was hospitalized at UC Davis Medical Centre in Sacramento despite no known contact with travellers or other cases.
The new cases mark a decisive escalation in the outbreak of coronavirus in the U.S., potentially proving the virus may be spreading beyond quarantines and other preventative measures.
Federal officials are beginning to ramp up their efforts by sending new test kits to every state, with a goal to have them in place by next week.
But members of the Trump administration are continuing to downplay the threat the virus poses to the country, saying the risk of widespread transmission remains low.
President Donald Trump and his closest advisers are also pointing to a lack of fatal cases in the U.S. as proof that their containment efforts are working.
— With files from the Associated PressView link »