Washington, March 5, 2020
The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved Thursday a 8.3 billion dollar emergency spending bill to respond to the outbreak of the new coronavirus.
The 96-1 vote came a day after the House of Representatives passed the bill, which is moving through Congress in an expedited process.
The package, expected to be approved by President Donald Trump in the coming days, comes as the novel coronavirus has spread across the U.S. and has caused the death of 11 people, mostly in north-western Washington State.
Washington state, on the west coast, has become the epicentre of the outbreak, but California has declared a state of emergency after more cases of coronavirus were reported there and New York saw its number of cases double to 22.
A cruise ship is being held off the coast of California after a patient who had earlier travelled on the vessel died this week.
California Governor Gavin Newsom said the ship will not dock until the passengers – some of whom came in contact with the fatally sick person on an earlier voyage – have been tested.
The U.S. Coast Guard on Thursday was flying test kits out to the Grand Princess ship as it sits off the coast of San Francisco.
The ship is carrying roughly 2,500 people. Fewer than 100 guests and crew traveled on the previous voyage with the deceased passenger and remained on board, the Princess cruise company said.
Meanwhile U.S. markets took a dive on Thursday, with major averages trading down 10 per cent off their record highs last month, while the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury bond sunk below 0.9 per cent for the first time.
The S&P 500 was lower 3.39 on the day, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 3.58 per cent, or 969 points, in a broad-based plunge.
The Nasdaq also took similar hits. The volatility index was high.
In the spending bill, about 3 billion dollars are allocated toward developing therapies and vaccines, while 2.2 billion is designed for prevention and response.
The bill also sets aside 435 million dollars for overseas aid.
Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the federal government’s coronavirus task force, visited a factory that makes surgical masks in Minnesota and is on his way to Washington state on Thursday.
Washington is among the states slated to hold primary elections next week. Authorities have urged voters not to lick envelops, if they are casting ballots through the postal service, but there are not other changes to the plan.