The first confirmed death of an American citizen in the coronavirus outbreak, which the United States Embassy in Beijing reported on Saturday, is likely to raise questions about whether the State Department has done enough to ensure the safety of Americans in China.
Few details about the American, who died in Wuhan on Thursday, were immediately available. The embassy said the person was 60 years old. Two people familiar with the matter said the person was a woman and had underlying health conditions.
It was not clear whether the person had tried to leave Wuhan on any of the flights organized by the State Department, which have evacuated diplomats and other American citizens from the city and other parts of China.
In a statement, the State Department took a defensive tone, saying that since Jan. 29, it had evacuated around 850 people, most of them Americans, on five charter flights out of Wuhan.
The agency said it had “no higher priority than the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad,” but there are no current plans to conduct additional flights, even as some Americans elsewhere in China have been asking to be evacuated.
The State Department said Americans should heed its Feb. 2 advisory not to travel to China. To show that its flights appeared to have met the immediate needs of Americans in Wuhan, the department said that its last charter flight, on Thursday, had extra seats after accommodating all Americans on the manifest, so officials were able to offer seats to more than 30 Canadians.
Reporting was contributed by Chris Cameron, Motoko Rich, Eimi Yamamitsu, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Yonette Joseph, Raphael Minder, Rich Barbieri, Raymond Zhong, Tiffany May, Katherine Li, Li Yuan, Chris Buckley, Steven Lee Myers, Sui-Lee Wee, Austin Ramzy and Edward Wong. Yiwei Wang contributed research.