Officials confirm first coronavirus case in nation's capital

Muriel Bowser
Posted at 10:15 PM, Mar 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-07 22:40:13-05

WASHINGTON -- Officials in Washington, D.C., say a man in his 50s has tested positive for coronavirus, marking the first presumptively confirmed case in the nation’s capital.

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser said Saturday that the man started exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 in late February and was hospitalized Thursday.

“He started exhibiting symptoms in late February,” Bowser said. “He presented and was admitted to a DC hospital.”

“The person has no prior history of travel outside the United States,” DC Health officials said. “While this is first case in the District, there is still no widespread community transmission and the general level of risk for residents is low.”

Bowser said another man, from Nigeria, who had passed through Washington has also tested positive for the virus in Maryland.

“DC Health is conducting contact tracing of that patient and individuals with known contact,” Bowser said.

Additionally, authorities said a marine stationed at Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County has tested positive for COVID-19.

Pentagon chief spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman said the marine who tested positive Saturday is being treated at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital.

“The Marine recently returned from overseas where he was on official business,” Hoffman said.

Officials with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) said they are working with Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, according to "longstanding public health protocols."

"The teams are in regular and close communication with federal, state, local, and private sector partners, VDH officials said.

News of the marine’s diagnosis marked Virginian’s first official case of COVID-19. Health officials are awaiting the results for seven others being tested and said 139 people are currently being monitored to see if they develop symptoms.

"Public health officials caution that evidence has not been seen of COVID-19 spreading in Virginia and said the risk is low," VDH officials noted.

Virginia health officials reminded folks to take the following precautions:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are unavailable.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

The number of U.S. coronavirus cases swelled to 400, with cases in about half of the states. Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska and Pennsylvania also recently reported their first cases.
The death toll from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, rose to 19 Saturday.

Sixteen people in Washington state, two people in Florida and one person in California have died.

Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 106,000 people and killed over 3,500, with the vast majority of them in China. Most cases have been mild, and more than half of those infected have recovered.

President Donald Trump signed a $8.3 billion funding bill Friday to help public health agencies address the crisis. The bill was widely supported by lawmakers on both side of the aisle.

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