An elementary school worker near Portland, Oregon has become the first person in the state to contract COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus. The latest case, along with a student in Washington state, will be the third and fourth cases in the United States of "community transmission" of the disease.
Community transmission cases are concerning, according to HuffPost, because the individuals with the disease haven't traveled to high-risk areas and they haven't had any contact with infected populations, as far as they know.
Lake Oswego, a wealthy community just south of Portland, closed its elementary school in order to disinfect it. Students were told to stay home and watch for symptoms of the disease. The school employee began showing symptoms on February 19 and continued to work at the school, so students and staff may have been exposed to the virus. Currently, the individual is being treated at a hospital in a different part of the state.
"Our first concern is for this individual, to make sure they're being cared for and is able to recover," a spokesperson said. "Our next priority is finding out who this individual had contact with and make sure they know about their risks."
Oregon's Governor Kate Brown cautioned people to continue with their usual routine, but said they should be sure to wash their hands, cover their mouths when they cough and sneeze, and stay at home if they show any symptoms.
At the same time, a second person in Washington state is being treated for coronavirus. The first individual had traveled to South Korea, but the second person -- a student at a high school in Snohomish County -- hadn't traveled to high-risk areas. The student went to school after showing symptoms earlier in the week but is now quarantined at home.
State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy commented on the case.
"This person did not travel so it is concerning that the individual acquired it in the community," she said.
The three cases still need to be officially confirmed by authorities from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but if they are indeed coronavirus, it raises concerns about how the disease is spreading.
Critics have raised concerns about the response within the U.S. to the potential pandemic. A whistleblower stated that employees assisting evacuees were working without protective gear and traveling via commercial airlines to return home. Others have said that Donald Trump's response to the problem has been underwhelming, as the president continues to call the situation a "hoax."