First U.S. Coronavirus Death Confirmed as Trump Says 'No Need to Panic'

The first coronavirus death in the United States is confirmed in Washington state; President Trump urges calm as travel restrictions are expanded to Iran, Italy and South Korea.
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U.S. President Donald Trump told Americans there was "no need to panic" after the first U.S. death from the coronavirus was confirmed in Washington state.

Speaking to reporters from the White House briefing room on Saturday, Trump began by praising his administration's efforts to date, in particular Vice President Mike Pence, who earlier this week was tasked with leading the administration's response efforts to the disease.

"It's a tough one but a lot of progress has been made," Trump said, referring to the virus itself. "We moved very early, which turned out to be a big life-safer. We ask the media and politicians not to do anything to incite panic, because there is no need to panic."

Trump's address to the nation was his second in 48 hours about the coronavirus outbreak.

To date, 22 patients in the U.S. have contracted the disease, Trump said. That number did not include the 45 cases related to Americans infected on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that have been repatriated. 

In addition to the single death, four others are "very ill," while 15 have either recovered fully or on their way to recovery, the president said, adding that additional cases in the U.S. are likely but healthy individuals "should be able to fully recover." 

"If you're healthy, you will probably go through a process and you'll be fine," Trump said.

His remarks followed confirmation of the first coronavirus death in the U.S. on Saturday in King County, Washington, not far from Seattle. It was unclear how the man in his 50s, described by the president as a "medically high-risk patient," contracted the virus; the patient had no relevant travel history or close contact with anyone known to have the virus, according to reports.

Trump's comments and the first U.S. death follows the president's shocking claims on Friday night that the coronavirus was a "hoax" perpetrated by the media and his detractors, including Democratic rivals, and was being unnecessarily blown out of proportion.

The president insisted on Saturday that his "hoax" comment referred to how his response to the coronavirus was being characterized, and was not in reference to the disease itself being a "hoax."

Pence said Saturday that additional restrictions were made for travel to Iran and were increased to certain regions in Italy and South Korea with large numbers of virus cases. 

Trump said that Pence and Centers for Disease Control head Anthony Fauci and Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield will be meeting with pharmaceutical executives at the White House on Monday to discuss progress on a vaccine. 

Meantime, the virus continued its lethal global spread. South Korea reported more than 800 new coronavirus cases on Saturday. In the U.S., health officials in California, Oregon and Washington reported three new cases of coronavirus with no travel history to China.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Saturday said it would allow some 300 to 400 academic hospital labs to begin testing for the virus, allowing for checks of thousands of people rather than the few hundred already tested.

Stocks capped off their worst week since the 2008 financial crisis with more declines Friday as investors braced for a coronavirus pandemic that is now widely expected to dramatically curb global growth - and in turn corporate profits.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the day on Friday down 355 points, or 1.38%, to 25,409, recovering from a more than-1,000 point drop earlier in the day. 

For the week, the Dow lost 12.4%, wiping some $3 trillion in value off the books. The S&P fell 11.5% and the Nasdaq declined 10.5%. Yields on 10-year and 30-year U.S. Treasuries hit record lows again Friday.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said on Friday that the central bank was "closely monitoring" developments and that it will act when appropriate.

In response to the record stock market declines and the Fed's statement on Friday, Trump had far less praise, telling reporters that the Fed should "be a leader, not a follower," in lowering interest rates to offset declining economic growth, which is widely expected to worsen as the disease continues to spread.

"I think the Fed has a very important role, especially a psychological role," Trump said. "This is something they should have done even beyond this and before this. We should have the lowest interest rates. We don’t have the lowest interest rates. Our Fed should be a leader, not a follower. Our Fed has been a follower." 

Named for the crown-like spikes on their surfaces, coronaviruses are a type of virus that infect mostly bats, pigs and small mammals. The new virus' official name is severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or Sars-CoV-2. The disease it causes is called Covid-19.