US COVID-19 cases surge past 250, deaths reach 16


Thousands of Americans from California to New York are under self-quarantine as COVID-19 cases continue to be confirmed in hot spots such as Seattle and New York City, as well as new locations, including Pennsylvania, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, and Colorado—as US cases grew to 260 and deaths to 16. 

Today President Donald Trump signed an $8.3 billion spending bill that will fund states’ repossess to the coronavirus, as the stock market opened in New York with another major dip, signaling investors’ continued concern about the growing outbreak. 

“I asked for 2.5, and I got 8.3 [billion dollars],” Trump said as he signed the bill. “And I’ll take it.”

According to an online dashboard maintained by Johns Hopkins University, 20 US states have confirmed cases of COVID-19, with Washington (79 cases), California (60), and New York (33) hit hardes. All other states report 5 or fewer cases. As of this afternoon, officials have confirmed 260 US cases, more than the United Kingdom (163), Singapore (130), and Hong Kong (106).

U Washington suspends in-person classes 

Washington state also has the most deaths, 14, according to a daily tally maintained by the Seattle Times. Most of the fatal cases involved residents of a Seattle-area nursing home, the Life Care Center. 

The US death total rose to 16 after another passenger who was aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship traveling from Hawaii to California died from complications of COVID-19, the Los Angeles Times reported. The Grand Princess is being held off the coast of San Francisco as dozens of passengers are being tested for the novel coronavirus.

Today the University of Washington in Seattle, with 50,000 students, said it was suspending in-person classes and conducting all classes online until winter quarter ends on Mar 20. This is the first major US university to take that step. The Seattle Times says the decision affects more than 48,000 students on the Seattle campus, nearly 6,000 in Bothell and about 5,300 in Tacoma. Seattle University announced similar today, as well.

Over 4,000 New Yorkers in quarantine

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted that the 11 new cases in that state are all related to a case identified in Westchester County, in the New York City suburb of New Rochelle.

Cuomo said 44 New Yorkers are under mandatory quarantine, which means they have a confirmed case of COVID-19, had direct contact with a case, or have symptoms and recently returned from a country with active spread.

Cuomo said an additional 4,000 New Yorkers are under a precautionary quarantine, which applies to those who have returned from a country with COVID-19 but are asymptomatic, had proximate (not direct) contact with a case, or were recommended to self-quarantine by a health official. 

Several states report first cases

Overnight, several US states reported their first cases or added to their case count. Texas now had five cases, and eight more possible cases are under investigation. All confirmed and possible case-patients recently traveled to Egypt as part of a tour group. 

In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf announced the state’s first two presumptive positive cases. Both case-patients recently traveled to a country with COVID-19 spread.

The Maryland Department of Health tweeted that officials confirmed the state’s first three COVID-19 cases, all in people who had recently traveled. All patients are being treated in home isolation and are in good condition. 

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) confirmed late this afternoon its first patient, in an older resident of Ramsey County (which is home so St. Paul) who had been on a cruise with a known COVID-19 case-patient. The Minnesota patient is in home isolation and doing well, the MDH said.

In Nevada, health officials in Clark County confirmed the state’s first case, in a man who had recently traveled to both Washington and Texas. 

Colorado also announced its first patient, a man in his 30s who had contact with a known COVID-19 case. As in Pennsylvania, the case is presumed positive until it can be confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

California, Medicare to pay for testing 

Finally today, California Governor Gavin Newsom said all commercial and state-funded insurance plans will offer free COVID-19 testing. 

“Californians shouldn’t have to fear a big medical bill just because they took a test for COVID-19,” Newsom said in a press statement. “This action means that Californians who fit the testing requirements can receive the test at no cost. We’re all in this together, and I’m grateful to those health providers who have already stepped up and heeded our call.” 

The federal government also announced that COVID-19 testing will be covered under Medicare Part B.

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