American Coronavirus Death Toll Hits 6 as Top Official Warns of 'Likely Pandemic'
Total U.S. deaths jumps to six - all in Washington state - nationwide cases nears 100
The total number of coronavirus deaths in American has jumped to six after four more people have died from the outbreak of the deadly virus - all in Washington state.
The China-born virus - officially known as COVID-19 - has continued to spread nationwide through the United States, with the total number of confirmed U.S. cases now nearing 100.
President Donald Trump has issued a call-to-action to drugmakers, urging them to speed up the development of a vaccine, despite the top health official in the country warning it won't be ready for at least a year.
Washington state officials confirmed Monday that four people had died in the Seattle area, following the deaths of two other patients in that same area who died over the weekend.
Five of the six deaths are linked to the LifeCare long-term aged care facility in Kirkland, King County, with the sixth victim being from nearby Snohomish County.
At least four of the six people who have died were elderly and/or had underlying health conditions, officials say.
News of the additional deaths came after Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC News on Monday that the disease had likely reached "pandemic proportions" as 100 cases were confirmed across the U.S.
"We're dealing with an evolving situation," Dr. Fauci warned.
"We're dealing with clearly an emerging infectious disease that has now reached outbreak proportions and likely pandemic proportions.
"If you look at multiple definitions of what a pandemic is... multiple sustained transmissions of a highly infectious agent in multiple regions of the globe."
Dr. Fauci went on to say the U.S. might need to consider social mitigation, including closing down schools and not allowing events where large crowds are in confined spaces.
"We're not ready for it right now but we need to be at least thinking about the possibility," he said in the interview that will air in full on NBC Nightly News on Monday.
Dr. Fauci denied claims that the Trump administration had pressured him to downplay his assessments of the disease, saying: "No, absolutely not.
"There's no pressure. I tell it like it is.
"I've been doing that for 36 years and I will continue to tell it like it is."
It comes after a New York doctor warned coronavirus cases in the U.S. will surge into the thousands by next week and the former head of the FDA claimed three critical weeks were lost in containing the spread of the virus due to faulty test kits given out by the government.
Health officials have been scrambling to get their own coronavirus testing kits up and running after getting stuck with faulty tests from the federal government that they said left them unable to diagnose people quickly.
State and local authorities are now also stepping up testing for the illness as the number of new cases grew to 100 across the U.S. on Monday, with new infections announced in California, Florida, Illinois, Rhode Island, New York, and Washington state.
New York confirmed its first coronavirus case on Sunday as a female healthcare worker in her 30s who returned from Iran last week and is now being quarantined in her Manhattan home.
Florida late Sunday declared a public health emergency as it confirmed its first two cases, while Rhode Island announced its two cases - two people who had returned from a school trip to Italy - had prompted the closure of a school so it could be sanitized.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed on Sunday that a healthcare worker in her 30s was the first confirmed coronavirus case in the state.
She is thought to have contracted the coronavirus in Iran and is now currently self-quarantined in her Manhattan home.
Health authorities had previously tested more than 30 New York patients who have reported symptoms consistent with the virus, but until now each suspected case had proven to be a false alarm.
The spread of the disease, which began in China, has now seen more than 89,000 cases worldwide and over 3,000 fatalities.
The coronavirus appeared poised for a spike in the United States in part because of more testing to confirm cases.
Florida's governor Ron DeSantis disclosed late Sunday that two people had become the first in his state to test positive and ordered his top health officer to declare a statewide public health emergency.
Two people who returned to Rhode Island from a trip to Europe have also tested positive for coronavirus.
The patients in Rhode Island were on a school trip to Italy together in February.
A third person from the trip is being tested and the school is shutting down for the week.
In the United States, a cluster of cases is centered on a nursing home near Seattle.
Eight of the 18 confirmed coronavirus cases in Washington state have been residents or workers at LifeCare.
State officials said an additional 27 residents of the nursing home and 25 staff members were reporting symptoms of the virus, which can be similar to that of the common flu.
It came as panic buying hit New York and other parts of the country over the weekend with anxious shoppers clearing supermarket shelves as they stock up on food and medical supplies.
Trump said on Sunday that travelers to the United States from countries at high risk of coronavirus would be screened before boarding and on arrival, without specifying which countries.