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It gives businesses "another thing to consider" when they review their supply chain, and it could accelerate the return of some factories to the U.S. and Mexico, Ross told FOX Business' Maria Bartiromo.
U.S. companies that operate in China, including Google and Starbucks, have begun closing some locations due to the outbreak. Airlines, including British Airways and American Airlines, have grounded Los Angeles flights to and from Shanghai and Beijing.
And in a statement to FOX Business, a Commerce Department spokesperson added:
"As Secretary Ross made clear the first step is to bring the virus under control and help the victims of this disease. It is also important to consider the ramifications of doing business with a country that has a long history of covering up real risks to its own people and the rest of the world. Fortunately, the Department of Commerce is equipped to support the American people and our businesses to do both."
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The Wuhan coronavirus joins past disease outbreaks such as SARS, which impacted nearly 5,000 people on China’s mainland and claimed 329 lives in the early 2000s, and the African swine virus, a recent epidemic that killed a vast number of pigs in China, in risk factors that companies need to take into account, Ross said.
The death toll from the virus has reached 170, with 7,711 confirmed cases in China. Five cases were reported in the U.S. and officials are urging citizens to avoid unwarranted travel to the country.