Coronavirus: US promises 1 million test kits as death toll rises to 9 with 3 new deaths in Seattle area

SPH Brightcove Video
The number of coronavirus deaths on Tuesday ticked up to nine from six a day earlier, all in Washington state, where officials are battling a cluster of cases.
A utility service worker for King County Metro Transit deep cleans a bus at the King County Metro Atlantic/Central operating base in Seattle on March 3, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The number of people with the new coronavirus in the United States climbed on Tuesday (March 3) with Washington state reporting three more deaths, as authorities worked on preventing its spread and the central bank acted on Tuesday to protect the economy from the impact of the global outbreak.

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Washington state rose to 27, including nine deaths, up from 18 cases and six deaths a day earlier, the state Department of Health reported.

Eight of those who died from the respiratory illness were in King County and one was in neighbouring Snohomish County, officials said. All 27 confirmed cases are clustered in those two counties in the greater Seattle area, making it the largest concentration detected to date in the United States.

Several of those who died had been residents of a long-term nursing care facility in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland called LifeCare, according to the Seattle & King County Public Health agency.

North Carolina reported its first presumptive positive case on Tuesday, in a person who had travelled to the same nursing home.

The number of cases in the United States was at least 108.

The federal Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) earlier posted 108 cases on its website: 60 in 12 US states, including presumed cases reported by public health laboratories, and 48 who were repatriated from abroad.

US President Donald Trump told reporters his administration may cut off travel from the United States to areas with high rates of coronavirus, but said officials were not weighing any restrictions on domestic travel.

In New York, a man in his 50s who lives in a New York City suburb and works at a Manhattan law firm tested positive for the virus, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the state to two, New York officials said.

He has severe pneumonia and is hospitalised, officials said.

The patient had not travelled to countries hardest hit in the coronavirus outbreak, which began in China in December and is now present in nearly 80 countries and territories, killing more than 3,000 people.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the confirmation of the case was made by the city's public health laboratory on its first day of testing.


Previously, all testing was conducted by the CDC, which created a delay of several days before the result was known.

US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn told Congress that testing kits should be available by the end of the week that would give labs the capacity to perform about 1 million coronavirus tests.

The US House of Representatives is aiming for Wednesday to debate a multi-billion-dollar bill providing emergency funds.

Republican Trump said his administration was working with Congress to pass an emergency spending measure, adding that he expects lawmakers to authorise about US$8.5 billion (S$11.8 billion).

Senate Democrats said a dispute with Republicans over the affordability of coronavirus tests and vaccinations were holding up agreement on a funding bill.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said US Vice-President Mike Pence, who heads the government's coronavirus task force, was unable to answer "vital questions" about the availability of tests during a 45-minute meeting.

"They didn't have as many answers as we needed. They didn't have the answers we needed. The biggest question, testing: when and where? They could not answer how soon people would be able to get the tests," Schumer told reporters.

A House Republican aide, asked to elaborate on leadership claims that Democrats are trying to attach other measures to the coronavirus legislation, said, "Democrats attempted to include price controls both for government purchases and in the commercial market for drugs that haven't even been developed yet."

The aide cited experts in the administration and private industry as saying that would "slow down both development of new vaccines and therapies, and their procurement."

Amid concerns about disruptions to supply chains, airlines and other business impacts of the coronavirus, the US Federal Reserve on Tuesday cut interest rates in an emergency move designed to shield the world's largest economy. The Fed said it was cutting rates by a half percentage point to a target range of 1.00 to 1.25 per cent.

Stocks on Wall Street initially rose more than 2 per cent on the Fed's surprise statement. But the Dow, Nasdaq and S&P 500 later all fell at or near 3 per cent by the end of the session.

International travel to the United States will fall 6% over the next three months, the US Travel Association, an industry group, forecast.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.