US coronavirus death toll hits 11 with new infections in New York, LA; California declares state of emergency

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California Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus in the state, which now has has 53 confirmed cases.
People emerge from the subway wearing face masks at Columbus Circle in New York, on March 4, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Two more people have died of the new coronavirus in the United States, bringing the toll to 11, and the two most populous cities, New York and Los Angeles, reported new cases on Wednesday (March 4).

The first California death from the virus was announced by health officials as an elderly adult with underlying health conditions. It was the first coronavirus fatality in the US outside of Washington state, where 10 have died.

Placer county's public health department said in a statement that the patient tested presumptively positive on Tuesday at a California lab and was likely exposed between Feb 11 and 21 on a Princess cruise ship to Mexico from San Francisco.

"Preliminary understanding from the contact investigation is that this patient had minimal community exposure between returning from the cruise and arriving at the hospital by ambulance on Feb 27," the statement said.

The person was the second confirmed case of the respiratory disease called Covid-19 in Placer county in Northern California.

California Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus in the state, which now has 53 confirmed cases.

In the greater Seattle area, the total number of coronavirus cases climbed to 39, up from 27 cases and nine deaths a day earlier, the Washington State Health Department announced.

The Seattle area has the largest concentration of coronavirus cases detected to date in the US. Several cases were connected to a long-term care facility for the elderly in the Pacific Northwest state.

In New York state, the number of cases rose to 10 on Wednesday. Three family members and a neighbour of a lawyer who was previously identified as infected tested positive.

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During a news conference announcing the first death from coronavirus in California, Placer County Public Health officials recommended everyone aboard a recent Princess Cruise to Mexico voluntarily self-quarantine.

The neighbour's wife and three of his children have also contracted the virus, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

About 1,000 people in the New York City suburb of Westchester county, where the two families live, were under self-quarantine orders because of possible exposure, Mr Cuomo said.

"We are, if anything, being overcautious," he said.

AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby, said on Wednesday that a group from New York who attended its 18,000-person policy conference in Washington, DC on Sunday to Tuesday was potentially in contact with an individual who contacted coronavirus before the conference.

Dozens of Congress members attended the conference, as well as Vice-President Mike Pence.

Los Angeles officials announced six new confirmed travel-related cases in Los Angeles county, including three people who had been to Northern Italy, one of the areas hardest hit in the global outbreak.

Of the six, only one has been hospitalised. The other five are recovering in home isolation.


In Washington, DC, US lawmakers reached bipartisan agreement on an US$8.3 billion (S$11.5 billion) emergency Bill to help fund efforts to contain the virus. The Bill garnered enough votes to pass in the House of Representatives.

The Senate is expected to act quickly so President Donald Trump can sign the measure into law.

More than US$3 billion would be devoted to research and development of coronavirus vaccines, test kits and therapeutics.

There are currently no approved vaccines or treatments for the fast-spreading illness.

In a bid to also help control the spread of the virus outside the US, US$1.25 billion would be earmarked for international efforts, an aide said.

The administration is working to allow laboratories to develop their own coronavirus tests without seeking regulatory approval first, US Health Secretary Alex Azar said.

The latest data from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) listed 129 confirmed and presumed cases in the US, up from the previous 108. They were 80 reported by public health authorities in 13 states plus 49 among people repatriated from abroad, according to the CDC website.

Those figures do not necessarily reflect Wednesday's updates from three states.

The infected New York lawyer had not travelled to countries with large numbers of cases. The outbreak began in China in December and is now present in nearly 80 countries and territories and has killed more than 3,000 people. The first New York case, reported last week, was in a woman who had returned from Iran, where at least 92 people have died.

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