U.S.-Canada border closed as Florida congressman diagnosed with coronavirus

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – The United States and Canada closed their shared border to “non-essential traffic” on Wednesday to curb transmission of the coronavirus as U.S. President Donald Trump moved to bolster medical equipment supplies and the outbreak struck Capitol Hill.

Two members of the U.S. House representatives – Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida and Ben McAdams of Utah – said on Wednesday they had each tested positive for coronavirus, becoming the first lawmakers in Congress known to have become infected.

The implications for Capitol Hill were not immediately clear. The news came as the U.S. Senate passed legislation providing over $100 billion in emergency spending for free coronavirus testing, paid sick leave and expanded safety-net benefits.

Trump quickly signed the measure into law. Hours earlier, the Republican president said he would invoke the Defense Production Act to allow the government to accelerate production of medical equipment such as face masks and other protective gear during the health crisis.

“It’s a very tough situation here. You have to do things,” Trump said as he sought to escalate government action to address a public health crisis that he had initially made light of but has more recently likened to a war.

The defense statute, enacted in 1950 at the outset of the Korean War, empowers the president to expand industrial production of key materials or products for national security and other reasons.

Wall Street on Wednesday extended a four-week plunge in the face of deepening concerns over a fast-spreading and potentially lethal respiratory virus that has paralyzed large sectors of the U.S. economy and led to fears of a global recession.

VIRUS IN ALL 50 STATES

The Trump administration has been criticized for a slow initial response, with the United States now facing shortages of diagnostic testing kits and other essential medical supplies.

With cases of the highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the virus reported in all 50 states and the total number of known U.S. infections closing in on 8,000, millions of Americans are staying at home instead of commuting to work or going to school.

Via Reuters
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