Pence traveling to Washington amid state’s rise in coronavirus cases: Report

As the coronavirus death toll continues to mount, Vice President Mike Pence announced Wednesday that he will be traveling to Washington, a state that has been especially hard-hit by the illness, according to The Hill.

The announcement was made during a White House meeting with executives from the medical diagnostic laboratory industry.

“We will be taking our entire team there, with an effort to really continue to support Governor [Jay] Inslee’s efforts to focus resources on the community in the Seattle area,” The Washington Times quoted Pence as saying.

Pence was tapped by President Trump late last month to head the federal response to the ongoing public health crisis, according to Fox News.

Crisis escalates

Of the 11 coronavirus deaths that have occurred in the United States thus far, nine have been in Washington’s King County, which includes Seattle. Many of the county’s growing tally of coronavirus cases have been linked to an outbreak at Life Care Center of Kirkland, a residential nursing facility, according to NPR.

Another death near Washington’s apparent epicenter occurred in neighboring Snohomish County, while California’s Placer County has also seen one fatality.

The Placer County victim is said to have been an elderly person with underlying health issues who had recently returned from a cruise to Mexico.

According to Fox News, officials in King County have urged businesses to permit all of the county’s 2.2 million residents to work from home for the rest of the month as a means to prevent widespread transmission of the virus, and individuals aged 60 and older have been advised to remain indoors during what was referred to as a “critical period” in the outbreak crisis.

Additional response measures announced

Earlier this week, Pence said in a press briefing that Americans should not purchase surgical masks as an attempted prevention measure, and he also touted the nation’s growing capacity to test for the virus. Pence noted that “roughly 1.5 million tests that will be available this week,” adding, “We’ll continue to build on that number.”

The vice president went on to note that additional travel restrictions and advisories are being imposed on travel from Iran, South Korea and parts of Italy, along with the existing restrictions relating to China.

“As we announced yesterday, I’m pleased to report that, as of yesterday morning, in addition to the travel ban from China — we’ve suspended all travel coming in from China, we’ve suspended all travel coming in from Iran, and even foreign nationals who visit either one of those countries are barred from coming into this country for 14 days,” Pence said during the briefing.

On Wednesday, the House passed an $8.3 billion coronavirus aid package that, according to Politico, includes new discretionary spending meant “to bolster vaccine development, research, equipment stockpiles, and state and local health budgets.” The Senate is expected to approve the bill as early as Thursday, at which point it will head to the White House to be signed by the president.

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