The U.S. embassy confirmed early Saturday that an American citizen diagnosed with coronavirus died at Jinyintian Hospital in Wuhan, China, on February 6. It appears this is the first death of an American citizen from the disease.
Planes carrying about 300 Americans from the Chinese city at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak arrived at military bases in California and Texas on Friday. Some of the Americans were continued on from Texas to Nebraska.
Passengers will be under a 14-day quarantine to protect against the spread of the virus. “Our top priority is keeping the risk to the American public low, and we’re working on all fronts to do that,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters.
On Saturday, the number of confirmed deaths surpassed the total number of people who died during the 2003 SARS epidemic, which killed 774 people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
All but two of the 812 confirmed deaths have been in mainland China, with one person succumbing in the Philippines and another in Hong Kong. More than 37,000 people have been infected with the virus worldwide, the vast majority of them in China. As of Friday morning, there were 12 confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. and 11 Americans among 64 people sickened with it who have been taken off a quarantined cruise ship in Japan.
Amid a growing backlash from the Chinese public, the country’s ruling Communist Party has promised an investigation into the apparent silencing of at least one doctor who tried to warn colleagues that a virus was spreading in the city of Wuhan two months ago, before the new disease was even identified. Thatafter becoming infected with the virus himself.
But as Beijing vows to “fully investigate relevant issues raised by the public” and in spite of an admission earlier this week that there had been “shortcomings and deficiencies” in its initial response, China continues to bristle at the measures taken by other countries to stop the virus spreading.