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5 Mar, 2020 19:50

US Senate approves $8.3 billion to combat coronavirus, sends to Trump for signature

US Senate approves $8.3 billion to combat coronavirus, sends to Trump for signature

American lawmakers have largely set aside party squabbles to approve a $8.3 billion appropriation to fight the coronavirus, as COVID-19 infections have spread through the US and claimed almost a dozen lives.

The Senate voted 96-1 to approve the funding package on Thursday, sending it to President Donald Trump for his signature. It's a substantial increase over the administration's original request of $2.5 billion.

A “clean” bill was approved in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, after initial attempts to attach partisan riders to it were scrapped due to the rapid spread of the virus on the West Coast. 

So far, eleven Americans have died from the virus, which originated in China’s Hubei province in December. Though the initial quarantine was able to contain the travelers who had visited the city of Wuhan or come into contact with the virus aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, a cluster of infections at a nursing home outside Seattle, Washington went undetected and has claimed ten lives so far. 

The eleventh US victim died on Wednesday in California, as evidence mounted they may have been infected on board another Princess cruise ship that sailed from San Francisco to Mexico and back in mid-February.

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California has declared a state of emergency due to the potential spread of the virus, which has a very high rate of transmission and can be lethal to the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions.

Over on the East Coast, cases have been reported in New Jersey and New York. From there, the virus may have made its way to Washington, DC via the attendees to the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the organizers admitted on Wednesday.

Israel has requested anyone returning from “international conferences abroad” to self-isolate at home for 14 days, in the hope of limiting the spread of the coronavirus. There have been 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Israel to date, with zero fatalities.

Also on rt.com AIPAC conference-goers ‘potentially’ exposed to coronavirus, Israeli Health Ministry imposes self-quarantine on returnees

So far, there have been 149 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Pentagon is confident it can continue to operate in case of an outbreak, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Thursday. 

“We have a lot of capabilities in this building. Our National Military Command Center has the capability to go for weeks at a time if they have to be locked down inside the building if we have some type of outbreak,” Esper told reporters. Some 22,000 people work at the complex, located just across the Potomac River from the US capital.

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