US virus cases nearing 70,000
Officials scramble for solutions in third hardest-hit country after China, Italy
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.
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.
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.
SHUT DOWN People wear face masks as they walk around an almost empty Pennsylvania Station in New York City.