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New coronavirus cases in LA, New York as lawmakers reach funding deal

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Los Angeles (AFP)

The United States' two biggest cities reported 10 more coronavirus cases Wednesday, as lawmakers in Congress reached a deal to provide more than $8 billion to fight the outbreak.

Los Angeles County officials declared an emergency as six new cases were reported in the West Coast metropolis, while New York reported four more patients -- all close contacts of a man who tested positive.

Nine people have died of the COVID-19 illness in the US and more than 130 have so far been infected, with the virus detected in more than a dozen states.

A congressional aide told AFP that Republicans and Democrats had reached a deal to fund the response to the tune of $8.3 billion -- with the House expected to vote today and the Senate tomorrow.

President Donald Trump had initially sought a much lower amount of $2.5 billion but later said he was happy to accept more money.

All of the newly infected individuals in LA were exposed to COVID-19 through close contact, health officials said.

Dr Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said three of the cases concerned travelers who had gone together to northern Italy -- a virus hotspot with more than 100 deaths.

Two other cases involved individuals who had come in contact with a family member who had the virus and the last concerned someone whose job exposed them to travelers.

"There's one person that is hospitalized, and all of our other five new cases are being isolated at home and closely monitored by the public health department," Ferrer said.

Officials said the emergency declaration was not aimed at spreading panic but rather at ensuring the county was well-prepared to prevent the spread of the virus.

"The step we're taking today is about preparation, not panic," said Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Officials said they expected the number of infections to rise in coming days and urged families to brace for possible school closures and the cancellation of public events.

There have now been seven people infected in LA County. Statewide, about 50 people are known to be infected, the most of any state.

All nine US deaths have been reported in the state of Washington so far, the majority of them involving residents of a nursing home.

In New York, state officials reported on Wednesday that the family members and neighbor of a man who had the virus had also tested positive.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said the wife and two children of the man were now infected, as is a neighbor who had driven the man to hospital, taking the number of cases in the state to six.

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