• Chinese researchers say 70% of coronavirus victims were infected with the more virulent of two strains
  • House and Senate negotiators have agreed on an $8 billion measure to fight the virus
  • CMS has ordered state inspectors to concentrate on infection control at hospitals and nursing homes

The Trump administration Wednesday looked to ramp up infection prevention at nursing homes as the U.S. death toll from coronavirus hit 11 and researchers at Peking University reported a second strain of the pathogen.

Congressional negotiators reached agreement on $8 billion in emergency spending to fight the outbreak. The measure could receive final approval by Thursday, providing more than $3 billion for research on vaccines and other treatments.

The World Health Organization said the contagion had spread to 93,090 people globally, with the number of infections outside China mushrooming to 12,688 in 76 countries in the past 24 hours. WHO said the virus had caused nearly 3,000 deaths in China and 214 elsewhere.

The Chinese researchers said they had identified two strains of the virus that leads to COVID-19, a more virulent strain that infected 70% of those affected and a less aggressive form that infected the rest. They cautioned, however, their study was limited and further research was necessary.

In Washington, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid directed state agencies to focus inspections of nursing homes and hospitals on infection control in the wake of the outbreak that killed at least five residents of a suburban Seattle nursing home.

“To make sure that we're doing everything we can as a health care system to contain the spread of the coronavirus, that our focus should be on infection control,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma told reporters.

Washington state, which has the highest concentration of confirmed cases in the U.S. at 39, with 10 deaths, asked voters not to lick the envelopes of their mail-in ballots, advising them to use a “wet sponge or cloth.” The state primary is next Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the White House focused on strategies for mitigating economic fallout from the outbreak, which is expected to cut global output and already has had a severe impact on travel. Among the strategies reportedly under consideration is guaranteeing sick pay to encourage people to stay home when they’re ill or sending money to small businesses to avoid layoffs.

President Trump on Wednesday blamed his administration’s slow start on testing for the virus on the previous administration, which put the Food and Drug Administration in charge of approving testing methodologies. Trump, however, has gutted an Obama administration department set up to respond to global health emergencies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday opened the way for more widespread testing, waiving restrictions that encouraged doctors to rule out other causes first.