A 70-year-old man living in Multnomah County is the first person to die from COVID-19 in Oregon, state health officials announced Saturday evening.
The man, a military veteran, had been undergoing treatment at the Veterans' Affairs Medical Center in Portland before succumbing to the disease on Saturday, March 14. Authorities say he also had "underlying health conditions."
"While we knew we would arrive at this day at some point, it doesn't lessen the impact," said Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen. "Our thoughts and deepest sympathy are with the family of this individual who honorably served his country."
The deceased man had tested positive for COVID-19 — the disease caused by the new coronavirus — on March 10, but had not recently travelled to foreign lands where the virus is in circulation. He also had no known contact with anyone who is a confirmed carrier of the illness, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
"This is a sobering reminder that this virus is in our community and can be serious for older people and those with underlying conditions," said Dr. Jennifer Vines, Multnomah County health officer. "This loss has motivated us to continue our efforts to minimize the impact of this virus on our community."
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been 41 confirmed deaths linked to the coronavirus in the United States so far, compared with more than 5,800 worldwide.
Reacting to the news, U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici called the death "a hard burden to bear."
"We have all suffered a great loss with the death of this veteran who served our country," she said, according to a statement. "I am working in Congress to make sure the state has the resources it needs to best respond to this crisis. Let us all take extra care to support and look out for each other, especially those in our community who are considered to be at high risk."
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