MTA worker disinfects a subway station in the Manhattan borough of New York City, March 4, 2020.
MTA worker disinfects a subway station in the Manhattan borough of New York City, March 4, 2020.

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON - The number of people who have the novel coronavirus in New York state has doubled to 22 following an increase in testing, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday, as Tennessee became the 14th U.S. state to report a case of the fast-spreading illness.

"The number will continue to go up," Cuomo told a news conference. "The more you test the higher number you will have."

The latest New York cases include 8 more connected to the Manhattan lawyer who lives in suburban Westchester County and had been previously diagnosed, two in New York City and one on Long Island.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urged the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to increase the supply of available test kits and expedite approval of testing by private companies.

"Our single greatest challenge is the lack of fast federal action to increase testing capacity - without that, we cannot beat this epidemic back," he said in a string of Twitter posts earlier on Thursday.

Tennessee health officials said their first case was in an adult male in Williamson County. Williamson County Schools will be closed for a deep cleaning on Friday and Monday, according to its official Twitter page.

The U.S. death toll from the COVID-19 respiratory disease caused by the virus stands at 11, all but one them in Washington state, which has a cluster of at least 39 infections in the Seattle area. The other death, announced on Wednesday, was in California.

More than 3,000 people have died worldwide from the coronavirus outbreak, which started in China.

The CDC on Thursday reported 149 confirmed and presumed U.S. cases, which includes those reported by states but not yet confirmed by the agency. They do not necessarily include new cases reported on Thursday.

U.S. health officials said they expect to be able to get enough coronavirus tests - around one million - to public laboratories this week with the capacity to test about 400,000 people.

They said additional test kits to cover between 1.5 and 1.7 million people would be available by the end of next week.

"Right now, it is a challenge if you are a doctor wanting to get somebody tested," U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters following a briefing with lawmakers in Washington, adding that physicians could only reach out to a limited network of public health labs.

Global equity markets continue to tumble as the number of coronavirus cases outside China mounted, fueling warnings that world growth is likely to reach its weakest level since the global financial crisis. The main U.S. stock indexes were down more than 3%.

Companies take action

Corporations around the world have begun issuing profit warnings and curbing activities.

Alphabet Inc's Google on Thursday joined Amazon.com Inc, Facebook Inc and Microsoft Corp in recommending employees in the Seattle area work from home, after some were infected with the coronavirus.

The companies' work-from-home recommendation will affect more than 100,000 people in the area, as both Microsoft and Amazon employ over 50,000 each. Facebook employs more than 5,000 in the area and Google about 4,500, according to media reports.

Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the U.S. response, on Thursday is scheduled to visit Washington Governor Jay Inslee. He will also stop in Minnesota to meet with the chief executive of 3M Co, which makes medical masks.

The U.S. Senate was expected later on Thursday to pass an $8.3 billion bill aimed at controlling the spread of the coronavirus after the House of Representatives voted 415-2 to pass it on Wednesday.

More than $3 billion of the funds would be devoted to research and development of coronavirus vaccines, test kits and treatments. There are currently no approved vaccines or treatments for the fast-spreading illness now in more than 80 countries and territories.

California Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday declared a statewide emergency in response to the outbreak and said California health authorities had confirmed 53 cases, the most of any U.S. state.

Trump administration officials in recent days have sought to assure various industry officials about their response and urge executives to take action, meeting with pharmaceutical, airline and diagnostic laboratory companies.

 

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