By Mike Baker
The New York Times Company
SEATTLE — Three more residents of Washington state have died from coronavirus, officials announced Monday, bringing to five the death toll in the United States and intensifying the crisis in this state, where a nursing facility in Kirkland has become a focus of illness and fear.
Leaders in the Seattle area said they intend to open isolation centers in Washington state in an effort to contain an emerging coronavirus outbreak.
Dow Constantine, executive of King County, said he had signed an emergency declaration for the county, which was preparing to buy a motel in the Seattle area where people who are infected with coronavirus could stay to remain isolated.
He said officials also were considering using modular housing units for residents in need of isolation but not hospitalization, as a way to free up access to medical facilities. “We need that hospital capacity for treatment,” Constantine said.
More testing for the virus was expected across the region as Kirkland became an epicenter of both illness and fear, much of it focused on the nursing facility, where six coronavirus cases have been confirmed and many more residents and employees have complained of illness.
By Sunday, a quarter of Kirkland’s firefighters were in quarantine because they had been to the nursing facility. A nearby college spent the day cleansing its campus because students had visited the nursing home. The hospital has asked visitors to stay away.
More than 90 people have been treated for coronavirus in the United States, and more than 18 of those people were in Washington state, including the first confirmed case of the virus, weeks ago, a high school student; and a man who died Saturday, the first death tied to coronavirus on U.S. soil.
In at least 12 of the Washington state cases, officials have said they were unaware of any connection to overseas travel that might explain the origin. Such cases signaled that the virus had spread within the United States, experts said.
The nursing facility in Kirkland, run by Life Care Centers of America, is full of older residents who can be especially vulnerable to respiratory illnesses. Records show the center has a recent history of illness outbreaks and of difficulty following infection control precautions.