Officials confirm first coronavirus case in nation’s capital
WASHINGTON (AP) — A man in his 50s tested positive for coronavirus — the first presumptively confirmed case in the nation’s capital — and another person who traveled through the city has also tested positive in Maryland, officials said.
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser said Saturday the man in the initial case started exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 in late February. He was admitted to a Washington hospital on Thursday and appeared to have no history of international travel and no close contacts to any other confirmed cases across the U.S., Bowser said.
“With his test yielding presumptive positive, D.C. Health has started its investigation in keeping with CDC guidelines,” Bowser said. The investigation includes tracing the man’s movements, though the mayor declined to say where in Washington the man lived.
Virginia recorded its first case Saturday when a U.S. Marine stationed at Fort Belvoir was found to have the virus.
President Donald Trump said he wasn’t concerned “at all” about the coronavirus getting closer to the White House after the first Washington case was confirmed and officials said an attendee of a recent political conference in the capital where Trump himself had spoken also tested positive for the virus.
“No, I’m not concerned at all. No, I’m not. We’ve done a great job,” Trump said.
Though the man in the initial Washington case had no travel history and no contact with anyone confirmed to have coronavirus, the man was tested for COVID-19 because he was considered to be at risk for complications, said Dr. Anjali Talwalkar, the principal senior deputy director for the district’s health department.
The second man, who passed through Washington, is also in his 50s and lives in Nigeria, but had been staying with family members in Washington recently, officials said. He tested positive in Maryland, where he remains hospitalized, Bowser said.
On Sunday, health officials said they had determined as part of their investigation that “an individual’s visitation to Christ Church Georgetown warrants precautionary measures.” In a statement, they recommended the church temporarily halt services and district health officials were reaching out to congregants and visitors. The church’s rector did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
“We are currently conducting an intensive investigation to identify any exposures to COVID-19 that may have occurred at the church,” the statement said.
Officials had no plans to cancel any events, including the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, which starts on March 20 and draws thousands of tourists.
“We recognize that it is fluid and every day we will monitor the situation on the ground in the district,” Bowser said.
Officials also stressed they were prepared for the spread of the virus and have been coordinating preparedness with a variety of agencies.
Dr. Jennifer Smith, who leads Washington’s public health laboratory, said officials have the capability of testing about 50 patients per day. The district has also ordered more than 42,000 masks to be delivered to the district’s fire and emergency medical workers, officials said.
Officials said they were in contact with their counterparts at health departments across the U.S., including in New York and California, after two people who attended the American Israel Public Affairs Committee event in Washington were diagnosed with coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Maryland officials warned Saturday that a person who attended the recent Conservative Political Action Conference in the suburb of Oxon Hill had tested positive for the virus. Both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the conference. The White House said Saturday there was no indication that either had met or were in “close proximity” to the infected attendee.
When asked whether his campaign rallies would would continue in light of the CPAC case, the president replied, “We’ll have tremendous rallies.” Trump held his most recent campaign rally last Monday in Charlotte, North Carolina. He waved off other questions to join a dinner for the president of Brazil, who was visiting Trump at the president’s home in south Florida.
The Marine at Fort Belvoir was the first military case of coronavirus reported inside the U.S., said a Pentagon official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the case.
The Marine was being treated at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, located south of Washington, and had recently returned from an overseas assignment, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said on Twitter.
Superville reported from Palm Beach, Florida. AP National Security Writer Robert Burns contributed to this report.