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COVID-19: First U.S. East Coast deaths reported in Florida

Florida is one of several states that have declared an emergency in response to the coronavirus. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Florida is one of several states that have declared an emergency in response to the coronavirus. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

March 7 (UPI) -- Florida health officials have announced the first two U.S. East Coast deaths from coronavirus as the governor there seeks $25 million in emergency funding to respond to the disease.

The Florida Department of Health announced late Friday that two people in their 70s who had traveled overseas died from COVID-19. One was from Santa Rosa County in the panhandle and the other from Lee County, on Florida's west coast.

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That brings the U.S. death toll from the disease to 16, according to figures from Johns Hopkins. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which last updated its figures Friday afternoon, reports 11 deaths.

Johns Hopkins reported 340 confirmed cases of the virus in the United States as of Saturday morning, citing local and state health departments.

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On Saturday the American Conservative Union announced that someone who attended last week's Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., has tested positive for the virus.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence also attended the conference, where Trump touted his coronavirus response and accused Democrats of exploiting it for political gain.

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A statement from the White House said the administration was aware of the positive test, and that there was "no indication" that Trump or Pence came into contact with the individual.

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US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn told reporters Saturday that the United States has the capacity to perform 75,000 tests for the virus, but expected that number to jump to 2.1 million early next week and to 4 million by the end of next week with increased production of test kits.

So far the CDC has completed 5,861 tests, Hahn said, but because the test typically involves two swabs and the number excludes tests taken at private labs, that number does not mean 5,861 people have been tested.

Cases have been reported in more than two dozen states in every region of the United States, but prior to Florida's announcement, all U.S. deaths from the novel coronavirus had been contained to the West Coast, with 13 in Washington and one in California.

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Washington, D.C., mayor Muriel Bowser reported the city's first positive coronavirus test Saturday afternoon.

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency Saturday after the number of confirmed cases in the state rose to 76, joining Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Gov. Gary Herbert of Utah, which had its first confirmed case of the virus Friday.

Also declaring a state of emergency relating to the virus are Gov. Gavin Newsom of California and Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, as well as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who requested $25 million in emergency funding from the state's legislature to combat COVID-19 after declaring a public health emergency earlier this month.

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Amtrak has also announced it will suspend service on the Acela non-stop train from Washington, D.C., to New York City starting Tuesday through May 26.

Meanwhile, a passenger on board the Grand Princess cruise ship off California told CNN that another passenger was airlifted off the quarantined vessel. Vice President Mike Pence announced Friday that 21 people on board the ship tested positive for the virus.

Members of the California National Guard's 129th Rescue Wing deliver COVID-19 test kits on Thursday. Photo by California National Guard


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"The captain came on a few minutes ago with another announcement that a helicopter was just dispatched to the ship to drop off some supplies and to pick up a passenger who needed medical attention and they flew that person back to San Francisco," passenger Steven Smith told CNN.

"They do not know what they're going to do, where they're going to have us berth. Right now we don't know what's going to happen tomorrow," he added.

Pence said the plan was to dock the cruise ship at a non-commercial port, where some 3,500 passengers can be removed.

On Friday, Trump signed an $8.3 billion funding bill to tackle the coronavirus. Some of the money is earmarked for local officials on the front lines fighting the disease, while about $3 billion will go toward vaccine research.

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