New coronavirus deaths in U.S. as lawmakers reach funding deal

Agence France-Presse
Most of the deaths have so far been in Washington state, with most of the victims residents of a nursing home

MASKED. Chinese students hold a memorial for Dr Li Wenlian outside the UCLA campus in Westwood, California, on February 15, 2020. Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP

LOS ANGELES, USA – The death toll in the United States from the new coronavirus rose to 11 on Wednesday, March 4, as lawmakers in Congress agreed to provide more than $8 billion to fight the rapidly spreading disease. (READ: U.S. Fed makes emergency rate cut to combat virus risk)

Governor Gavin Newsom reported the first fatality in California from the COVID-19 illness while health officials in nearby Washington state said a 10th person had died there.

Newsom gave no details about the person who had died, saying only that the victim lived in Placer County, in northern California.

“The state is working with federal officials to follow up on contact tracing of individuals that may have been exposed to provide treatment and protect public health,” he said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, Los Angeles County officials declared an emergency as 6 new cases were reported in the West Coast metropolis, while the number of confirmed cases in New York state rose to 11. (READ: Trump says ‘very safe’ to hold campaign rallies despite virus spread)

One of the cases concerns a medical screener at the Los Angeles International Airport checking overseas travelers for symptoms.

The Department of Homeland Security said the worker was under self-quarantine at home along with family members and was showing mild symptoms.

That person’s last shift at the airport was on February 21 and the symptoms began on February 29, a statement said.

“DHS is happy to report that this individual was highly trained and did everything right both on the job and when they began to feel sick,” the statement said. “We are told the individual wore all the correct protective equipment and took necessary protections on the job.”

Nationwide, more than 130 people have so far been infected, with the virus detected in more than a dozen states. Most of the deaths have so far been in Washington state, with most of the victims residents of a nursing home. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday said that Republicans and Democrats had reached a deal to fund the response to the outbreak to the tune of $8.3 billion.

Vice President Mike Pence, who is the White House’s pointman on the crisis, told reporters he would be traveling to Minnesota on Thursday to visit a 3M plant manufacturing personal protective equipment like masks. 

He will then visit Washington state and meet with Governor Jay Inslee to review containment efforts in the Seattle area. 

‘Coordinated, fully-funded response’  

All of the newly infected individuals in Los Angeles were exposed to COVID-19 through close contact, health officials said.

Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said 3 of the cases concerned travelers who had gone together to northern Italy – a virus hotspot with more than 100 deaths.

Two other cases involved individuals who had come in contact with a family member who had the virus and the last was the airport screener.

“The step we’re taking today is about preparation, not panic,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti of the emergency declaration.

Officials said they expected the number of infections in California to rise in coming days and urged families to brace for possible school closures and the cancelation of public events.

Statewide, more than 50 people are known to be infected, the most of any state.

In Washington state, officials in King County, where most of the deaths have taken place, said they were purchasing an 85-bed motel to house patients stricken with the virus. –