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US announces $8.3bn in coronavirus funding as cases surge

March 6, 2020

 

 

US lawmakers passed an emergency $8.3 billion spending bill to combat the coronavirus on Thursday as the number of cases surged in the country's northwest and deaths reached 12.

 

The Senate gave sweeping bipartisan support to the funding one day after the House passed the bill, so that it could be quickly sent to the White House for President Donald Trump's signature.

 

"The American people are looking for leadership, they want assurance their government is up to the task of protecting their health and safety," said Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy.

 

The amount is significantly above the $2.5 billion President Donald Trump had initially requested, but he later said he was happy to accept more.

The US reported its first case of the disease in January and its first death on February 29 -- both in the state of Washington in the country's Pacific Northwest.

 

Since then the toll has risen to 12 and the virus has spread to at least 15 states -- the latest being Maryland adjacent to the nation's capital Washington.

 

More than 180 people are infected, according to an AFP tally.

On Thursday, Washington state officials announced a jump in cases, from 39 to more than 70. Eleven of the 12 deaths have been reported there, with the other in California.

 

Tech firms in Seattle like Amazon, Facebook and Google were telling employees to work remotely, as was Microsoft in nearby Redmond.

Some schools in the state have also decided to close for a couple weeks and hold classes online.

 

Vice President Mike Pence, the White House pointman on the crisis, visited the state later in the day.

 

A cruise ship with 21 people who have symptoms was being held off the coast of San Francisco, California. The state has the second highest number of cases and declared an emergency.

 

Thousands of people are traveling aboard the Grand Princess, the same cruise ship on which California's first victim was thought to have contracted the virus.

 

The Grand Princess belongs to Princess Cruises, the company that operated the coronavirus-stricken ship held off Japan last month on which more than 700 people tested positive.

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