President Trump on Saturday announced the first death from coronavirus on U.S. soil — a woman in Washington state — and that he will beef up his travel ban on Iran and urge Americans not to go to hard-hit parts of South Korea and Italy.
Mr. Trump previously forbade visitors from Iran, but he is now barring any foreign national who visited the Islamic Republic within the last 14 days.
Mr. Trump said he looking at restrictions along the southern border, too, even though Mexico has only seen a handful of cases.
Domestically, Mr. Trump said investigators have now discovered 22 infections in the U.S.
The woman who died in Washington state was a medically “high-risk” patient who had not traveled abroad, according to Mr. Trump and his disease-fighting team.
While other patients have recovered, officials said four remain quite ill and the nation’s ordeal is far from over.
“Additional cases in the United States are likely,” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Trump addressed the nation one day after West Coast states announced a cluster of infections without any known link to travel from hard-hit areas, meaning the Americans were infected in the community.
Mr. Trump said the U.S. government is prepared for anything as the outbreak progresses. It is ordering protective gear, pursuing a vaccine and placing its best experts on the job.
“They’re working round the clock,” Mr. Trump said.
He asked reporters and politicians not to overhype the situation, as the disease rattles markets and poses a key test for his administration in an election year.
“There’s no reason to panic at all. This is something that’s being handled professionally,” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Trump says he is not muzzling scientists like Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, and that Democrats who criticize his administration are launching a “hoax” but that the epidemic itself is real and serious.
The new virus was discovered in China and causes an illness known as COVID-19 that is mild in many people but can cause respiratory distress, organ failure and death, especially in older persons or those with underlying medical conditions. It has sickened over 85,000 people around the globe and killed nearly 3,000.
“It’s a tough one, but a lot of progress has been made,” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Trump took credit for restriction travel from China a month ago, saying it averting more cases.
The cases along the West Coast include an Oregonian who worked at an elementary school in the Portland area. The school will be closed so it can be cleaned.
Also, officials in California are tracking down contacts of a 65-year-old woman in Santa Clara, California, who tested positive without traveling to a hard-hit area.
It’s the second case of “community spread” in California. A woman from Solano County is hospitalized in Sacramento.
Washington state announced that a high school student north of Seattle received a “presumptive” positive test for the virus, prompting a three-day school closure.
The state also reported another travel-related case.