1st virus death on US soil

Shinzo Abe
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) speaks during a meeting of the Headquarters for Measures against for the new COVID-19 Coronavirus Disease at the prime minister's office in Tokyo on March 1, 2020. - Japan OUT / AFP / JIJI PRESS / STR

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump urged Americans not to panic over the novel coronavirus Saturday after the first death on US soil was confirmed, even as France ramped up its security measures by cancelling all mass gatherings.

The virus has now hit 62 countries across the globe, prompting the World Health Organization to raise its risk assessment to its highest level.

Worldwide, nearly 3,000 people have been killed and about 87,000 infected since it was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

Its rapid international spread in the past week caused stock markets to plunge to their lowest levels since the 2008 financial crisis over fears the disease could wreak havoc on the world economy.

But global attention shifted Saturday to the United States, after authorities in the state of Washington confirmed the first fatality on American soil — and President Donald Trump hastily called a press conference to address fears.

“We’ve taken the most aggressive actions to confront the coronavirus,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

“Our country is prepared for any circumstance. (...) There is no reason to panic at all.”

The fatality occurred in Washington state’s King County, which includes Seattle, a city of more than 700,000 people, health officials said.

The victim was in his 50s and had “underlying health conditions,” officials said, as they also announced a possible outbreak in a Washington state nursing home, where a health worker and a resident in her 70s were both confirmed sick with the virus.

The death and two confirmed Washington state cases all involved patients who had not traveled overseas or come in contact with anyone known to be ill, indicating the virus was spreading in the United States.

“We will see more cases,” Health Secretary Alex Azar said at the White House.