SEATTLE (AP) — Tensions over how to contain the coronavirus escalated Tuesday in the United States as the death toll climbed to nine and lawmakers expressed doubts about the government’s ability to ramp up testing fast enough to deal with the crisis.
All of the deaths have occurred in Washington state, and most were residents of a nursing home in suburban Seattle.
The number of infections in the US overall climbed past 100, scattered across at least 15 states, with 27 cases in Washington alone.
“What is happening now in the United States may be the beginning of what is happening abroad,” said Dr Nancy Messonnier of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noting that in China, where the outbreak began more than two months ago, older and sicker people are about twice as likely to become seriously ill as those who are younger and healthier.
Most cases have been mild.
The nursing home outbreak apparently seeded the first case in North Carolina, authorities said.
A Wake County resident who had visited the Washington state nursing home tested positive but is in isolation at home and is doing well, according to the North Carolina governor’s office.
In suburban Seattle, 27 firefighters and paramedics who responded to calls at the nursing home were tested for the virus Tuesday using a drive-thru system set up in a hospital parking area.
Thirty-year-old firefighter Kevin Grimstad took care of two patients on January 29 at Life Care Center in Kirkland.
He is among 10 from the Kirkland Fire Department who developed symptoms after calls to the nursing facility.
Grimstad, his wife and 6-month-old son have taken turns recovering from fevers, coughs, and congestion. They’re all feeling better, but wish they knew more about the virus.
“It’s crazy. A couple of weeks ago, it seemed like a foreign thing and now we’re getting tested,” Grimstad said. “If I was exposed a month ago, the problem is more widespread than we know.”
In the nation’s capital, officials moved on a number of fronts.
A bipartisan $7.5 billion emergency bill to fund the government’s response to the outbreak worked its way through Congress.
The Federal Reserve announced the biggest interest-rate cut in over a decade to try to fend off damage to the US economy from the factory shutdowns, travel restrictions and other disruptions around the globe.
On Wall Street, stocks rallied briefly on the news, then went into another steep slide, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing 785 points on the day or 2.9%.