21 Test Positive for Coronavirus on Cruise Ship Off California Coast

Two people in Florida have died from the coronavirus, the state’s health department said late Friday. Both individuals had recently been on international trips, the department said in a statement.

Florida said it has also identified “two new presumptive positive cases” in Broward County.

U.S. officials say 21 people aboard a cruise ship off the coast of California have tested positive for coronavirus as the number of cases around the world topped 100,000.

Vice President Mike Pence said Friday he is working with California authorities to allow the Grand Princess cruise ship to be brought to an unspecified noncommercial port where all 3,500 people aboard can be tested for the virus.

A first round of testing was done on 46 people on board the ship after a military helicopter crew lowered test kits onto the ship’s deck.

The vessel was flagged for testing after a passenger on a previous voyage of the ship, in February, died of the disease.

Emergency funding

Earlier Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed legislation releasing $8.3 billion in emergency spending to combat the outbreak of the virus.

The measure provides money for possible treatments and vaccine development and to help state and local governments respond to the threat.

One such local government is Montgomery County, Maryland, a suburb outside Washington, which confirmed its first cases Thursday.

The funding bill includes more than $3 billion for vaccine development, $800 million for researching treatments, $2.2 billion for prevention and response, $1.25 billion for global containment measures, and $1 billion to support state and local health agencies. It also authorizes doctors and nurses to administer tele-health services for Medicare, a government-funded health care program for seniors.

The funding comes as U.S. officials said Friday there are 245 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and 14 deaths reported so far.

Worldwide, the number of infections Friday topped 100,000 while the death toll exceeded 3,400.

During his daily update, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reiterated that all countries must make containment their highest priority, calling on them to find, test, isolate and care for every case.

Tedros stressed that slowing the epidemic saves lives and buys time for preparedness, as well as for research and development.

US preparations

On Friday, Trump visited the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the southeastern city of Atlanta, Georgia, where the pathogen is being researched.

Amid criticism over a shortage of test kits, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday 1 million test kits for COVID-19 are to arrive in a few days at U.S. labs.

Five U.S. states — Maryland, California, Florida, Washington and Hawaii — have declared states of emergency because of the virus.

Pennsylvania, Indiana, Minnesota and Nebraska reported their first cases Friday.

U.S. Forces Korea said Friday that one of its workers in South Korea has tested positive for COVID-19, the seventh USFK employee to contract the virus that causes the disease.

Borders remained closed for the fifth day Friday between Iran, which ranks third among affected countries with more than 4,700 cases, and neighbors Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The closings created logjams of hundreds of vehicles full of fresh produce along the Pakistan-Iran border near the Pakistani town of Taftan and in the Balochistan provincial capital of Quetta.

“Our vehicles are loaded with fresh fruit, which is now deteriorating,” a produce transporter from Taftan told VOA’s Urdu service Friday. “Our transport is all jammed.”

During a visit to Quetta Friday, Pakistani Interior Minister Ijaz Shah said he is expediting the return of 2,000 Pakistani pilgrims in Iran to prevent the accumulation of visitors at the border. He said 3,000 pilgrims had previously returned home.

Iran announced 1,000 new cases and said its death toll rose to 124.

The Vatican reported its first coronavirus case Friday. Spokesman Matteo Bruni said its health clinic has been closed for a deep cleaning, but its emergency room remains open.

Countries confirming their first cases of the virus Friday include Cameroon, Togo, Slovakia and Serbia.

The threat appears to be waning in China, where the outbreak erupted in December.

Officials in Hubei, a central province of China, said new case numbers in the province, not including the city of Wuhan where the virus began, were zero over the past 24 hours for the first time during the outbreak.

The WHO said Thursday there are about 17 times as many new cases reported outside China now than inside China itself.

VOA Urdu language service contributed to this report

Source: Voice of America

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