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Tensions rise as U.S. death toll from coronavirus reaches 9

The death toll from the coronavirus in the U.S. has climbed to nine, with tensions rising over how to contain the outbreak.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are expressing doubts about the government’s ability to ramp up testing fast enough to deal with the crisis.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve has announced the biggest interest-rate cut in over a decade to try to fend off damage to the economy. And health officials are trying to ease shortages of face masks by giving the OK to medical workers to use industrial-grade ones.

All of the COVID-19 deaths in the United States so far have been in the Seattle area.

Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington on Sunday said they had evidence the COVID-19 virus may have been circulating in the state for up to six weeks undetected. If true, that could mean that there are hundreds of undiagnosed cases in the area.

The coronavirus crisis shifted increasingly westward toward Europe and the United States on Tuesday, with governments taking emergency steps to ease shortages of face masks for front-line doctors and nurses and the U.S. Federal Reserve announcing the biggest interest-rate cut in over a decade to fend off damage to the economy.

The virus reached deep into Iran’s government, where 23 members of Parliament and the head of the country’s emergency services were reported infected. South Korea started drive-thru testing. Deaths in Italy more than doubled from the day before, bringing the country’s total to 79 — the deadliest reported outbreak outside China.

The French government announced it would requisition supplies of protective masks, while the U.S. relaxed restrictions on the kind of masks American health care workers can use.