US virus cases near­ing 70,000

Of­fi­cials scram­ble for solutions in third hard­est-hit coun­try af­ter China, Italy

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - FRONT PAGE -

NEW YORK—NEW York of­fi­cials scram­bled to head off a pub­lic health dis­as­ter on Wed­nes­day as the state be­came the big­gest new coro­n­avirus dis­ease hot spot in the United States. The United States had 69,197 cases as of late Wed­nes­day, third only to China with 81,736 cases and Italy with 74,386. The US Se­nate re­sponded with a $2.2-tril­lion aid pack­age for busi­nesses, work­ers and health sys­tems.

NEW YORK—NEW York of­fi­cials scram­bled to head off a pub­lic health dis­as­ter on Wed­nes­day as the state emerged as the big­gest new coro­n­avirus dis­ease (COVID-19) hot spot in the United States, which also be­came the third coun­try to have had the most num­ber of con­firmed cases.

Ac­cord­ing to the Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity’s Coro­n­avirus Re­source Cen­ter, the United States had 69,197 cases as of late March 26, third only to China, where the highly infectious virus emerged late last year, with 81,736 cases and Italy with 74,386.

The US Se­nate was con­cerned enough to unan­i­mously pass the largest eco­nomic re­lief bill in US his­tory—an un­prece­dented $2.2-tril­lion pack­age steer­ing aid to busi­nesses, work­ers and health care sys­tems.

World­wide, the death toll climbed past 21,000, ac­cord­ing to the Johns Hop­kins count. The num­ber of dead in the United States rose to 1,041 as of late Wed­nes­day.

New York State alone ac­counted for more than 30,000 cases and close to 300 deaths, most of them in New York City.

New York Gov. An­drew Cuomo 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.

Mass test­ing

Some pub­lic health ex­perts also at­trib­uted the city’s bur­geon­ing caseload in part to the state’s big push to test peo­ple.

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—new York City Mayor Bill de Bla­sio and Cuomo ini­tially cast the dis­ease as a dan­ger­ous threat but the threat was rel­a­tively low and it was one that the city’s hospi­tal sys­tem could han­dle.

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. 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 had 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.

Spain sur­passes

In Spain, the death toll rose past 3,400, eclips­ing China’s 3,291, af­ter a one-day spike of 700 fatal­i­ties. It is now sec­ond only to Italy with over 7,500 deaths.

“We are col­laps­ing. We need more work­ers,” said Lidia Per­era, a nurse at Madrid’s 1,000-bed Hospi­tal de la Paz.

The par­lia­ment’s vote will let the govern­ment ex­tend strict stay-at-home rules and busi­ness closings un­til April 11.

Around the United States, other states braced for a ver­sion of New York’s night­mare, with fears over pub­lic events held in the weeks be­fore the virus ex­ploded.

A month af­ter Mardi Gras, Louisiana is see­ing a bal­loon­ing num­ber of cases and now has the third-high­est rate per capita in the United States, ac­cord­ing to the gov­er­nor. Sixty-five have died, and the virus has been con­firmed in three-quar­ters of the state’s 64 parishes.

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.

“We’re quickly ap­proach­ing the point of max­i­mum ca­pac­ity. We need a re­lief valve,” said Steven Kitchen of the Phoebe Put­ney Me­mo­rial Hospi­tal.

—AFP

SHUT DOWN Peo­ple wear face masks as they walk around an al­most empty Penn­syl­va­nia Sta­tion in New York City.

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