U.S. coronavirus death toll hits 11; Senate vote sends Trump $8.3B bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has passed an $8.3 billion measure to help tackle the coronavirus outbreak in hopes of reassuring a fearful public and accelerating the government’s response.

The money would pay for a multifaceted attack on a virus that is spreading more widely every day, sending financial markets spiraling, disrupting travel and potentially threatening the U.S. economy’s decade-long expansion.

Thursday’s sweeping vote sends the bill to the White House for President Donald Trump’s signature.

The plan would more than triple the $2.5 billion amount outlined by the White House 10 days ago.

The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus has risen to 11 with a victim succumbing in California - the first reported fatality outside Washington state.

Vice President Mike Pence is pledging that federal officials will “lean into” the fight against the new coronavirus.

He commented from Minnesota, where he visited with a leading maker of masks being used to stem the spread of the virus.

He spoke after meeting with 3M CEO Mike Roman and Minnesota Gov. Tom Walz at the company’s headquarters just outside Minneapolis. Pence asked Americans to help by refraining from buying masks unless they are sick.

Pence is later heading for Washington state. The Seattle area has been the region hardest hit within the U.S., with at least 70 confirmed cases and 10 deaths.

A new round of testing confirmed 11 additional cases of coronavirus in New York state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday, bringing the total in that state to 22.

Mayor Bill De Blasio announced two new New York City coronavirus cases Thursday morning. Both patients - a man in his 40s and a woman in her 80s - are in intensive care.

Neither patient is believed to have traveled to the afflicted countries or knowingly had contact with others diagnosed with COVID-19.

“We are going to see more cases like this as community transmission becomes more common,” De Blasio said. “We want New Yorkers to be prepared and vigilant, not alarmed.”

The mayor faulted the government’s response: “Our single greatest challenge is the lack of fast federal action to increase testing capacity — without that, we cannot beat this epidemic back.”

Facebook said it’s temporarily closing an office in Seattle after a worker was diagnosed with the new virus.

“A contractor based in our Stadium East office has been diagnosed with the COVID-19,” the company said. “We’ve notified our employees and are following the advice of public health officials to prioritize everyone’s health and safety.”

Facebook said the last time the worker came to the office was on Feb. 21, so it will shut the office until March 9, when the incubation period ends. The company is following guidance from local authorities and encouraging Seattle staff to work from home until March 31.

An Amazon employee at the e-commerce giant’s Seattle office also reportedly tested positive for the virus this week. Employees there are being encouraged to work from home.

Officials in Placer County, Calif. northwest of Sacramento, said Wednesday an elderly adult who tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from a San Francisco-to-Mexico cruise had died. They said the victim had underlying health conditions.

Washington also announced another death Wednesday, bringing its total to 10. Most of the dead were residents of a nursing home in Kirkland, a suburb east of Seattle.

Other states were reporting new cases as well - including the first one in Tennessee, as well as additional case in Florida, bringing that state’s total of presumptive cases to four.

A rising number of churches across the United States are making changes in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

For example, many Catholic dioceses are suspending the serving of wine during Communion. One of the bishops ordering this change is Archbishop Paul Etienne of Seattle, whose region is the worst hit in the U.S.

There’s been no indication thus far of any widespread cancellations of worship services. However, experts say it would be wise for faith leaders to start preparing for that possibility — perhaps by planning to livestream their services on social media.

President Donald Trump is defending his administration’s response to the new coronavirus and his confrontational style of name-calling political opponents as he fields questions from the public in his first TV town hall of the 2020 election cycle Thursday.

Trump, who regularly calls his top Democratic opponents “Sleepy Joe" and “Crazy Bernie," was asked whether he could deliver his message without the controversial rhetoric.

The president responded, “When they hit us, we have to hit back,” giving no indication he was about to change his habits.

Cruise ship is held off California coast for virus testing

Scrambling to keep the coronavirus at bay, officials have ordered a cruise ship to hold off the California coast to await testing of those aboard, after a passenger on an earlier voyage died and at least one other became infected.

A Coast Guard helicopter is expected to deliver test kits to the Grand Princess once it reaches the waters off San Francisco later in the day.

Princess Cruises says fewer than 100 of those aboard have been identified for testing.

‘This is not a drill’: WHO urges the world to fight virus

The World Health Organization is urging global governments to pull out all the stops against the new virus.

China after many arduous weeks appears to be winning its epic, costly battle against the outbreak. But the fight is revving up in newly affected areas of the globe and the disruption is profoundly impacting billions of people.

The U.S. stock market is down nearly 4 percent in late afternoon trading and the WHO says there are about 17 times as many new infections outside China as in it.

Widening outbreaks are in South Korea, Italy and Iran. Countries desperate to slow the spread are tightening travel restrictions.

Dogs, cats can't pass on coronavirus, but can test positive

Pet cats and dogs cannot pass the new coronavirus to humans, but they can test positive for low levels of the pathogen if they catch it from their owner.

That’s the conclusion of Hong Kong agricultural officials and other experts after a dog in quarantine tested weak positive for the virus in samples from its nose and mouth.

The agricultural department said it found no evidence that pets were a source of infection or could get sick themselves with the COVID-19 illness. It suggested, however, that pets from a household of an infected person be quarantined.

Iran says virus deaths reach 107 amid 3,513 confirmed cases

Iran has announced new measures to fight a spreading outbreak of the new coronavirus. The new coronavirus has killed 107 people in the Islamic Republic amid 3,513 confirmed cases there.

Iran’s health minister said Thursday that authorities will start setting set up checkpoints to limit travel between major cities. He’s also urging citizens to reduce their use of paper money and to stay in their vehicles at gas stations.

He earlier said authorities will begin manning checkpoints to limit travel between major cities in the Islamic Republic.

Palestinian officials are shuttering the storied Nativity Church in the biblical city of Bethlehem over fears of the new coronavirus.

The closure comes weeks ahead of the busy Easter holiday season that draws tens of thousands of visitors and worshippers to the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

Swiss officials confirm first coronavirus death

Authorities in Switzerland say a 74-year-old woman infected with COVID-19 has died, the first death due to the new virus reported in the country.

The Federal Office of Public Health said Thursday that the death was reported by authorities in the western canton of Vaud.

The woman had been hospitalized since Tuesday and died during the night.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 58 infections had been confirmed in Switzerland.

Industry group: Virus outbreak could cost airlines $113B

The International Air Transport Association says the virus outbreak that began in China could cost airlines as much as $113 billion in lost revenues due to the collapse of air travel.

Representatives of the airline industry group said Thursday after a working meeting in Singapore that the industry urgently needs help from governments in waiving some requirements and fees to alleviate the burden on struggling carriers.

An earlier estimate just two weeks ago put the potential cost of the downturn in travel at less than $30 billion.

The IATA officials said the consensus of experts was that air travel remains relatively safe and that there are no known cases of passengers spreading the virus while on aircraft.

OPEC looks to cut production as virus outbreak hits demand

The oil-producing countries of the OPEC cartel are considering whether to slash output to contain a plunge in prices.

The cost of crude has fallen 25% since the start of the year amid concerns about the virus outbreak’s disruption to the world economy. Air travel to China all but stopped and demand for transportation fuel inside the country dropped dramatically as cities locked down. Major companies halted business travel.

Oil prices stabilized ahead of the meeting on expectations that OPEC and non-OPEC members like Russia would agree to deeper production cuts. Some analysts predict the cartel will agree to slash production by 1 million barrels per day, on top of existing cuts.

Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved. Gray Media Group, Inc., contributed to this report.