US reports 1st coronavirus deaths; some CDC test kits may be contaminated

The first two U.S. deaths related to the novel coronavirus have been reported, while HHS has launched an investigation into a manufacturing defect in early testing kits, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Nine things to know:

1. Two COVID-19 deaths were confirmed in the Seattle area, according to ABC News. State officials said late March 1 that a 70-year-old King County resident died from the disease, the second related death reported in the U.S. The nation's first death was a man in his 50s with underlying medical conditions, also a King County resident, NPR reports.

2. The FDA found issues with certain CDC test components due to a manufacturing issue, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, MD, said in a March 1 statement cited by WSJ. Dr. Hahn didn't detail the problem, but said it has been resolved. The FDA "has confidence in the design and current manufacturing of the test," which is now being distributed, Dr. Hahn said.

The control test meant to give negative results was supposedly contaminated, showing a small signal for some local and state labs, an official from the Association of Public Health Laboratories said, according to WSJ. The testing kits are no longer being developed at the Atlanta CDC lab where the manufacturing issue happened.

3. There are 89 COVID-19 cases in the U.S., reported by Rhode Island, Illinois, New York, California and Washington as of 9 a.m., March 2, according to CNN. The cases in New York and Rhode Island are related to travel. Information regarding the patient in Illinois has not yet been released, while cases confirmed in California and Washington are of unknown origin. 

4. Two healthcare workers in California have tested positive for COVID-19, though the CDC has not yet confirmed the results, ABC 7 News reports. The workers were exposed to an infected patient at NorthBay VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville, Calif., said Bela Matyas, MD, the county's health officer. The patient is now being treated at University of California-Davis Medical Center in Sacramento while the employees are self-quarantining at home. Local healthcare workers will now wear protective gear when seeing any patient with a respiratory illness, not just those recently returning from other countries.  

5. Four new COVID-19 cases and a death have been linked to a possible nursing home outbreak, according to CNN. Kirkland, Wash.-based Life Care Center is under investigation after more than 50 residents and staff have reported respiratory illness symptoms, according to Jeffrey Duchin, MD, health officer for Seattle and King County. Confirmed cases include a 40-year-old female healthcare worker with no known travel outside the U.S. and a 70-year-old female resident in serious condition. The facility has temporarily stopped admitting new patients and is not allowing visits from families or volunteers.

6. The risk in the U.S. is low and "the American public needs to go on with their normal lives," CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, said Feb. 29 during a White House press conference.  

7. COVID-19 may have spread across the nation undetected for weeks, according to The New York Times. Researchers examined the genomes of two infections in Washington and found similarities that suggest the virus may have been spreading for weeks. Washington reported the first U.S. case, confirmed by the CDC Jan. 20. Researchers believe another state case announced Feb. 28 descended from that first case.

8. WHO increased the global risk assessment to "very high" Feb. 28, though the outbreak is still not a pandemic, USA Today reported. "We are on the highest level of alert or highest level of risk assessment in terms of spread and in terms of impact," said Mike Ryan, MD, WHO's executive director of health emergencies. He said the assessment was not meant to alarm people, but to remind every country to be vigilant.

9. The CDC mistakenly identified the first patient to die as female, according to The Hill. "CDC erroneously identified the patient as a female in a briefing earlier today with the President and Vice President," Dr. Redfield, CDC director, tweeted Feb. 29.

As of 10 a.m., March 2, COVID-19 has sickened 89,198 and resulted in 3,048 deaths. Globally, 45,175 people have recovered from the illness.

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