26 March 2020 08:32
NEW YORK — New York authorities mobilized to head off a potential public health disaster in the city Wednesday, with its emergence as the nation's biggest coronavirus hot spot a warning flare – and perhaps a cautionary tale – for the rest of the country as U.S. deaths from the pandemic topped 1,000. A makeshift morgue was set up outside Bellevue Hospital, and the city's police, their ranks dwindling as more fall ill, were told to patrol nearly empty streets to enforce social distancing. Spanish lawmakers agreed to extending by two weeks a state of emergency that has allowed the government to maintain a national lockdown. In Washington, President Trump implored Congress to move on critical coronavirus aid without further delay. The number of dead in the U.S. rose to 1,041 as of late Wednesday, with nearly 70,000 infections.
People wear personal protective equipment while maintaining social distancing as they wait in line for a Covid-19 test at a New York hospital. New York authorities mobilised to head off a potential public health disaster in the city Wednesday, with its emergence as the nation's biggest coronavirus hot spot a warning flare--and perhaps a cautionary tale--for the rest of the country. A makeshift morgue was set up outside Bellevue Hospital, and the city's police, their ranks dwindling as more fall ill, were told to patrol nearly empty streets to enforce social distancing. Public health officials hunted down beds and medical equipment and put out a call for more doctors and nurses for fear the number of sick will explode in a matter of weeks, overwhelming hospitals as has happened in Italy and Spain. In Washington, President Donald Trump implored Congress to move on critical coronavirus aid without further delay.
New York State alone accounted for more than 30,000 cases and close to 300 deaths, most of them in New York City. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, again pleading for help in dealing with the onslaught, attributed the cluster to the city's role as a gateway to international travelers and the sheer density of its population, with 8.6 million people sharing subways, elevators, apartment buildings and offices. "Our closeness makes us vulnerable," he said. That is what New York is," Cuomo said. Some public health experts also attributed the city's burgeoning caseload in part to the state's big push to test people. Troy Tassier, a Fordham University professor who studies economic epidemiology, suggested the increase shows New York would have fared better had it acted sooner to order social distancing. Nearly 7 million people in the San Francisco area were all but confined to their homes on March 17, and California put all 40 million of its residents under a near-lockdown three days later. The order to stay at home in New York State did not go into effect until Sunday evening, March 22, and New York City's 1.1 million-student school system was not closed until March 15, well after other districts had shut down. Dr. Mark Dworkin, an epidemiology professor at University of Illinois-Chicago, said he hadn't followed New York's situation closely enough to say whether he would have done it differently, but he noted that moving quickly is critical--and sometimes difficult to do at early points, when the public doesn't sense an imminent threat. After New York's first positive test came back on March 1 - in a health care worker who had traveled to Iran and secluded herself upon returning - Mayor Bill de Blasio and Cuomo initially cast the disease as a dangerous threat but one that the city's muscular hospital system could handle. The risk to most New Yorkers, they said, was relatively low. Tassier said it wasn't too late: "We can still make things better than they would be otherwise." In a measure of how the virus is permeating life in ways big and small, the mayor said authorities would remove basketball hoops at 80 public courts where people were not respecting social-distancing instructions not to shoot around with anyone outside their households, while leaving up roughly 1,700 others where there were no problems. Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House's coronavirus task force, said at a briefing that the number of new cases in New York City has been relatively constant over the last three days. But she warned hospital cases will continue to increase because they reflect people who contracted the illness before full mitigation efforts kicked in, and urged city residents to follow White House recommendations. 1. The White House and legislative leaders hit last-minute snags after reaching agreement on a mammoth economic relief package, a $2 trillion plan to help businesses survive the crisis and give households checks of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child. 2: Prince Charles, the 71-year-old heir to the British throne, tested positive for the virus but was showing only mild symptoms and was isolating himself at a royal estate in Scotland, his office said. 3: Spain's death toll rose past 3,400, eclipsing China's, after a one-day spike of 700 fatalities. We need more workers," said Lidia Perera, a nurse at Madrid's 1,000-bed Hospital de la Paz. Parliament agreed to extend by two more weeks a state of emergency that has allowed it to maintain a national lockdown. 4: China's Hubei province, where the outbreak first emerged late last year, started lifting its lockdown. The decision came as Russia reported its first deaths from the virus, two elderly patients who had underlying conditions. 7: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said more than 400,000 people responded within a day to the government's call for volunteers to help the country's most vulnerable people. They will deliver medicine, drive people home from doctor's appointments and make phone calls to check on patients. A Marine became the first person stationed at the Pentagon to test positive for the virus. Around the US, other states braced for a version of New York's nightmare, with fears over public events held in the weeks before the virus exploded. In Georgia, a state that has seen cases grow to more than 1,200, an Albany hospital's three intensive care units were already full, and doctors were working to discharge people as quickly as possible to make way for new patients. We need a relief valve," said Steven Kitchen, chief medical officer at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issued a statewide stay-at-home order through April 11, saying the "extreme measure" was necessary because restrictions so far haven't done enough to reduce the virus' spread. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.