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EXCLUSIVE: Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Sunday that a new case of the coronavirus appeared in Chicago overnight, marking the latest spread of the outbreak in the United States.
Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Azar confirmed the latest infection as fears mount that the virus will continue to spread across the country.
“We’ve had 23 cases here in the United States that are not a result of us repatriating individuals from Japan or China,” Azar said. “Of those individuals, we’ve got cases in Chicago as well as Washington and Oregon where we do — and two in California where we do not yet know why they contracted the novel coronavirus.”
There are now three cases of the coronavirus in Illinois, with the Chicago Tribune reporting Saturday night that the latest case “resulted in presumptive positives for COVID-19.” The patient is hospitalized in isolation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols have been implemented, as officials try to locate and monitor anyone who had contact with the infected individual.
According to the Associated Press, there have been 62 cases of the coronavirus in the United States with one death so far.
The man who died was in his 50s, had underlying health conditions and no history of travel or contact with a known COVID-19 case, health officials in Washington state said at a news conference. A spokesperson for EvergreenHealth Medical Center, Kayse Dahl, said the person died in the facility in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland.
“At this point we do not know how this gentleman contracted the illness,” Azar said. “Right now there’s a large investigation going on in the nursing home, the hospital, contact tracing to try to determine where that disease was introduced and how it might have spread.”
A growing number of cases in California, Washington state and Oregon are confounding authorities because the infected people hadn’t recently traveled overseas or had any known close contact with a traveler or an infected person.
Azar tried to assuage concerns that the outbreak of coronavirus wil spread widely among the American public, telling Fox News that the chances on contracting the virus “remains low,” but noted that “things can change rapidly.”
“The risk to any individual American remains low,” Azar said. “Thanks to the efforts the president has taken, they stay low. We’re working to keep it that way.
He added: “But things can change rapidly. They should know we have the best public health system in the world though looking out for them.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.