U.S. reports 9th coronavirus death as the virus continues to spread; Fed cuts interest rate

Medical staff with protective clothing are seen inside a ward specialised in receiving any person who may have been infected with coronavirus, at the Rajiv Ghandhi Government General hospital in Chennai, India, January 29, 2020. REUTERS/P. Ravikumar/File photo

Washington state reported new deaths from coronavirus on Tuesday, raising the U.S. death toll from the virus to nine. With the coronavirus spreading unpredictably and Americans bracing for an increasing impact at home, the Federal Reserve made an emergency interest rate cut earlier on Tuesday, slashing the benchmark U.S. rate by half a percentage point.

The central bank has not made an emergency move like this since late 2008. It was also a sign that global central banks are prepared to act to contain the economic fallout from the coronavirus. The move came after President Donald Trump, in a tweet, called for a “big” interest rate cut by the Federal Reserve “to make up for China’s coronavirus situation and slowdown.”

The markets quickly rallied after the Federal Reserve announced the decision. The rebound came after a volatile morning, with futures pointing positive and then making a U-turn. The Dow Jones industrial average sank nearly 3 percent, or close to 800 points, and the yield on the U.S. 10-year Treasury bond — a foundation of global finance — briefly fell below 1 percent, before recovering slightly, as investors fled equities for the safety of bonds.

Meanwhile, South Korean President Moon Jae-in declared “war” on the coronavirus as government officials were placed on 24-hour alert and health tests expanded in virus-hit areas. The number of confirmed cases in South Korea tops 5,000, the most outside China. About 70 countries have reported incidences of the virus, with the number of cases in the United States topping 100 across 15 states.

China, the epicenter of the outbreak and still the worst-hit, announced its lowest number of new cases since late January – 125 in 24 hours – and 31 deaths, bringing its totals to 80,151 infections and 2,943 deaths. The country has pledged to help other nations hit by the outbreak, offering advice to Iran, which has reported 2,336 confirmed cases and 77 deaths.

The World Health Organization said that covid-19 has killed about 3.4% of those diagnosed with the illness globally – higher than what has previously been estimated.

By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected, said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Earlier estimates had put the coronavirus death rate in a range of about 2%t, but officials have been hamstrung by the difficulty in getting an accurate count of those who may have had mild illnesses and not sought treatment.

Despite a total of 90,893 reported cases of covid-19 globally, including 3,110 deaths, containment is still possible — and necessary — to save lives, Tedros said. The biggest impediment to doing so, he said, is “the severe and increasing disruption to the global supply of personal protective equipment — caused by rising demand, hoarding and misuse.”

He called on governments and manufacturers to boost production and secure supplies for critically affected and at-risk countries.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump informed local government officials that he had asked drug company executives to do “him a favor” and “speed it up” on developing a coronavirus vaccine. He added, “And they will. They’re working really hard and quick.”

Trump made these comments while addressing the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference in Washington. The president remarked on how the coronavirus shows that in government, one never knows what will be a concern on any given day.

“Six weeks ago, eight weeks ago, you never heard of this. All of a sudden, it’s got the world aflutter,” Trump said. “But it’ll work out.”

Trump also assured the county officials that his administration is working with Congress to pass supplemental funding for the coronavirus response to ensure that “state and local health departments get everything they need.”

New York state reported its second coronavirus case, a 50-year-old man in Westchester County, a suburb of New York. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he is pushing to provide paid sick leave and job protection for coronavirus patients. North Carolina officials said that the state has its first coronavirus case, which they linked to the outbreak at a long-term residential facility in Washington state.The office of North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said the presumptive positive test was conducted by a state laboratory and will still have to be confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a statement, Cooper’s office identified this person only as someone from Wake County, who “traveled to the State of Washington and was exposed at a long-term care facility where there is currently a COVID-19 outbreak.” The Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, has dozens of residents and staff members reportedly ill with symptoms linked to the virus.

Chile and Argentina reported their first infections, as cases of the virus slowly start to increase in Latin America.

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