Two test positive for coronavirus at US conference attended by Pence

Vice President Mike Pence with, from left, US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn, Coast Guard Vice Adm. (AP)
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Updated 07 March 2020

Two test positive for coronavirus at US conference attended by Pence

  • Officials said on Friday that 22 new cases had been confirmed in New York state
  • Pence is leading the US response to the novel coronavirus

WASHINGTON: Two people have tested positive for the new coronavirus after taking part in a pro-Israel lobby group’s conference in Washington which Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and dozens of lawmakers also attended.

The influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee said in an email to attendees, speakers and congressional offices that the infected pair had traveled from New York to go to the March 1-3 event.

“We have confirmed that at least two Policy Conference attendees from New York have tested positive for the Coronavirus,” AIPAC said in the message, posted to its Twitter account.

Officials said on Friday that 22 new cases had been confirmed in New York state, mostly in a Westchester County cluster north of New York City, bringing the total to 44.

“We have continued to remain in constant communication with the Westchester County Health Department and the DC Health Department which is coordinating with the New York Health Department, and national health authorities,” AIPAC added.

AIPAC circulated a statement later Friday it attributed to Washington health authorities saying no immediate risk to attendees had been identified. DC Public Health was unavailable for comment.

The event attracted several high-profile attendees including Pence, Pompeo, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Democratic former White House hopeful Mike Bloomberg.

Pence is leading the US response to the novel coronavirus.

Lawmakers from all political stripes make an annual pilgrimage of sorts to AIPAC to pledge their support for the state of Israel on a grand stage.
About 18,000 people had been expected to travel from across the US to attend the conference, which typically attracts around two-thirds of the members of Congress.

Attendees swamped Capitol Hill in their hundreds during the event.

“If you test positive for Coronavirus, we urge you to inform your local health authorities so they can properly coordinate the response to this situation with the appropriate health authorities,” AIPAC said.

The virus has now killed more than 3,450 people and infected more than 100,000 across 92 nations since the outbreak first emerged in China in December. Over 3,000 of those deaths have been in China.


India hits 2 million coronavirus cases as health volunteers strike

Updated 14 min 18 sec ago

India hits 2 million coronavirus cases as health volunteers strike

  • Disease trajectory varies widely across India with the burden shifting from cities with relatively robust health systems to rural areas

NEW DELHI: As India hit another grim milestone in the coronavirus pandemic on Friday, crossing 2 million cases and more than 41,000 deaths, community health volunteers went on strike complaining they were ill-equipped to respond to the wave of infection in rural areas.
Even as India has maintained comparatively low mortality rates, the disease trajectory varies widely across the country with the burden shifting from cities with relatively robust health systems to rural areas, where resources are scarce or nonexistent.
The Health Ministry reported 62,538 cases in the past 24 hours, raising the nation’s total to 2,027,074. Also, 886 people died, for a total of 41,585.
The ministry said that recoveries were also growing. India has the third-highest caseload in the world after the United States and Brazil. It has the fifth-most deaths but its fatality rate of about 2 percent is far lower than the top two hardest-hit countries. The rate in the US is 3.3 percent, and in Brazil 3.4 percent, Johns Hopkins University figures showed.
The caseload in the world’s second-most populous country has quickly expanded since the government began lifting a months-long lockdown hoping to jump-start a moribund economy. India is projecting negative economic growth in 2020.
Life cautiously returned to the streets of the capital of New Delhi and financial hub Mumbai, which appear to have passed their peaks.
But state and local governments elsewhere in India were reimposing lockdowns after sharp spikes in cases.
Around 900,000 members of an all-female community health force began a two-day strike on Friday, protesting that they were being roped in to help with contact tracing, personal hygiene drives and in quarantine centers, but weren’t given personal protective equipment or additional pay, according to organizer A.R. Sindhu.
The health workers, known as Accredited Social Health Activists, or ASHA, which means ‘hope’ in several Indian languages, have been deployed in each village on behalf of the Health Ministry. Their work ranges from escorting children to immunization clinics to counseling women on childbirth.
But while their regular work hasn’t reduced, they are increasingly being involved by state governments in the fight against the pandemic, said Sindhu.
“But ASHA workers don’t have masks or PPEs or even sanitizers,” she said.
She added that although the work has increased and become more dangerous, their salaries remain static at roughly 2,000 rupees ($27) per month And the families of at least a dozen women who she said died from the virus didn’t receive compensation from India’s federal insurance for front-line health care workers because their deaths were not recorded as COVID-19 deaths.
Manisha Verma, a spokesperson for the Health Ministry, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.