- Associated Press - Thursday, March 19, 2020

SEATTLE (AP) - The death toll in Washington state from the coronavirus increased to 74 on Thursday, and the number of cases topped 1,300, according to state health officials.

King County reported four new deaths - bringing its total to 60 - while Snohomish, Benton and Island counties each reported one death.

Gov. Jay Inslee issued an order Thursday prohibiting non-urgent medical and dental procedures in an effort to secure protective equipment used by front-line health care workers. The order applies to any procedure that would require someone to wear protective gear.

“We know the health care personal protective equipment supply chain in Washington has been severely disrupted by the significant increased use of such equipment worldwide,” Inslee said in a statement. “We will do all we can to protect the women and men who protect us.”

Workers were building a field hospital on a soccer field in a Seattle suburb on Thursday for people who become ill with the coronavirus.

King County officials plans to erect these hospitals in several sites around the county to help with the growing number of positive cases and possible pressure on the health care facilities in the region.

“We believe it is critical that Shoreline do its part to help address this global crisis and provide for the health needs of those in the Shoreline community and those in the broader Puget Sound Region,” Shoreline officials said in a statement.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the virus.

The Shoreline field hospital is expected to provide up to 200 beds. King County, the hardest hit region in the state, anticipates needing an additional 3,000 medical beds.

U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Gen. James McConville, Army chief of staff, said Thursday that one Army combat support hospital and one field hospital will soon be deployed. The combat hospital normally has 248 beds, including 48 for intensive care with ventilators, and the field hospital has 32 beds, but can be increased by another 60 beds. Of those, there could be as many as 24 intensive care beds with ventilators.

The units are coming from Joint Base Lewis McCord in Washington state and the 586th Field Hospital from Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

They said they do not yet have approved orders for where the units will go, but they will be ready to deploy in the “next couple days”.

According to a defense official, the likely two locations at this point are New York City and Seattle.

Washington’s governor has also sent a letter to President Donald Trump requesting that a U.S. Navy hospital ship be sent to Seattle. Washington represents 20% of U.S. COVID-19 infections and 61% of nation-wide fatalities, he said in the letter.

“It is clear that our medical capacity is the first to be impacted and is now the most severely challenged in the nation,” Inslee said. “While we are taking very aggressive measures to slow the spread of this deadly disease among our vulnerable citizens, it is becoming clear that our hospitals will be overwhelmed soon. We anticipate that our hospitals will be in crisis by the end of this month.”


Associated Press reporters Lolita Baldor in Washington D.C. and Lisa Baumann in Seattle contributed to this story.

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