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Authorities announce two deaths in Florida as the number of US cases increases to at least 400

The death toll from coronavirus in the United States rose on Saturday afternoon to 19 people, as authorities announced two deaths in Florida, the first US deaths outside the west coast, two more in Washington state and the governor of New York declared a state of emergency.

Across the country, there were at least 400 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state and local governments.

More than 3,000 people remained quarantined on the Grand Princess, a cruise ship moored off the coast of San Francisco, California, as authorities tested crew members and passengers among those from 50 countries onboard.

At least 21 of those had tested positive for the virus, and Donald Trump said Friday that he preferred the passengers stay onboard the ship, so they would not increase the number of coronavirus cases on American soil.

I like the numbers being where they are, Trump said, in widely criticized remarks. I dont need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasnt our fault.

The head of the US Food and Drug Administration said in a rare Saturday briefing that materials for 2.1m coronavirus tests will have been shipped to non-public US labs by Monday, as the Trump administration aimed to counter criticism that its response to the disease has been sluggish and confusing.

Stephen Hahn, the FDA commissioner, told reporters at the White House that manufacturers have told the agency they believe that by the end of next week they could scale up to a capacity of 4m additional tests.

New efforts have been announced to prevent the spread of disease and protect vulnerable people. Officials in Seattle, Washington, which has one of the largest populations of homeless people in the country, are setting up locations for homeless people who might need treatment or self-quarantine for coronavirus.

On Friday, the gig economy organizing group Gig Workers Rising had published a petition asking chief executives at Uber, Lyft, GrubHub, Instacart, DoorDash, Postmates and Handy to give workers paid sick time off during the coronavirus outbreak.

On Friday night, an Uber executive made a partial response to concerns about gig economy workers vulnerability to contagion, saying the company would pay drivers and couriers diagnosed with the Covid-19 novel coronavirus, or quarantined by public health officials for up to 14 days, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Meanwhile, the number of cases of coronavirus continued to rise across the country, fueling continued concerns about whether the nations healthcare system was prepared for the additional strain.

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A person wearing a mask walks down a street a day after 60 people were brought to nearby hospitals to be tested for coronavirus, in Boston, Massachusetts. Photograph: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

Andrew Cuomo, New York states governor, announced there were at least 76 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state as of early Saturday afternoon, a jump of 21 overnight, and that he was declaring a state of emergency, which allows a state to take special control of funds and resources.

He criticized the Trump administration, where the vice-president, who has been put in charge of containing the crisis, and the president, have been speaking at cross-purposes.

On Thursday Mike Pence, the vice-president, said there were not enough coronavirus testing kits available in the US to meet medical demand, but on Friday afternoon Donald Trump said there was testing available for all who needed it.

That has caused consternation, anxiety, Cuomo said on Saturday. You know whats worse than the virus? The anxiety, and the fear and the confusion.

There is a growing sense that the US government is not fully in control of preparing for and managing either various aspects of the medical situation or public information.

The White House should have been telling every hospital to be prepared to see these cases, knowing how to manage bed space in hospitals if this gets bad and preparing the public for the fact that were going to be facing a pandemic rather than saying its containable, Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security and an infectious-disease physician, told the Washington Post. The idea of containment requires a lot of public health resources that can be better spent.

The US capital, Washington DC, reported its first presumptive case on Saturday evening.

In the Pacific north-west state of Washington, the main center of the outbreak and death toll so far in the United States, healthcare providers said medical supplies, including masks, are growing scarce, the Seattle Times reported.

And in Washington DC, financial regulators made contingency plans for how to oversee financial markets as the coronavirus closes in on the capital. Officials said Friday that the first three cases of the pneumonia-like disease had been diagnosed in Montgomery county, Maryland, home to thousands of federal workers who commute to nearby Washington daily.

Concerns about coronavirus led to the cancellation of major events, including South by Southwest, a tech, music and film conference that typically draws more than 400,000 people to Austin, Texas, in late March.

Similarly, the forthcoming womens world hockey championships in Canada were canceled Saturday.

In California, the San Francisco Symphony has cancelled performances at its symphony hall through 20 March.

At least two universities on the west coast announced that they would temporarily hold classes online, rather than in person. The University of Washington, being at the center of the US spread so far, and Stanford University, in California, where the university announced that two undergraduate students were in self-isolation after possible exposure to coronavirus.

At the University of California, Los Angeles, three students who were tested for Covid-19 have all tested negative, and the university is continuing to hold live classes on campus for the moment, the universitys chancellor, Gene Block, said.

Internationally there is disagreement among leading experts about whether the virus has reached pandemic status.

California state authorities were working on Saturday evening with federal officials to bring the Grand Princess cruise ship to a non-commercial port and test the 3,500 people aboard.

There was no immediate word on where the vessel will dock. Pence said at a meeting in Florida with cruise line executives that officials were still working on the plan.

All passengers and crew will be tested for the coronavirus and quarantined as necessary, he said.

In Seattle, Washington, which has one of the largest populations of homeless people in the United States, local officials said they have designed a plan to help treat any members of the citys homeless population who might contract coronavirus.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/07/coronavirus-us-deaths-new-york-emergency-florida

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