Hospi­tals in de­mand as death tolls rise around the world

The Kansas City Star - - News - BY COLLEEN BARRY AND FRANK JORDANS

Italy, Iran and the United States re­ported soar­ing new death tolls as the coro­n­avirus pan­demic marched re­lent­lessly across the globe Sun­day, prompt­ing a scram­ble in hard-hit re­gions to set up more hos­pi­tal beds and re­plen­ish the dwin­dling med­i­cal sup­plies needed to keep health work­ers safe.

Ital­ian Premier Giuseppe Conte went on live TV to an­nounce that he was tight­en­ing the coun­try’s lock­down and shut­ting down all pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties ex­cept those pro­vid­ing es­sen­tial goods and ser­vices.

“We are fac­ing the most se­ri­ous cri­sis that the coun­try has ex­pe­ri­enced since World War II,” Conte told Ital­ians dur­ing a broad­cast at mid­night.

As bod­ies ac­cu­mu­lated in Ital­ian hospi­tals, morgues and churches, and as med­i­cal work­ers pleaded for more help, there was no sign that Italy was yet tam­ing its arc of con­ta­gion. Italy now has 53,000 con­firmed cases of COVID-19 and 4,825 deaths – more than all of China, where the virus first emerged late last year.

Mean­while, Ger­man Chancellor An­gela Merkel has gone into quar­an­tine after be­ing in­formed that a doc­tor who ad­min­is­tered a vac­cine to her has tested pos­i­tive for the coro­n­avirus.

Merkel’s spokesman said the Ger­man chancellor was in­formed about the doc­tor’s test shortly after hold­ing a news con­fer­ence Sun­day an­nounc­ing new mea­sures to curb the spread of the virus.

Her spokesman, Steffen Seib­ert, said Merkel had re­ceived a pre­cau­tion­ary vac­cine Fri­day against pneu­mo­coc­cal in­fec­tion.

Seib­ert said in a state­ment that Merkel would un­dergo “reg­u­lar tests“in the com­ing days and con­tinue with her work from home for the time be­ing.

The U.S. govern­ment’s top in­fec­tious dis­ease ex­pert said he re­mains hope­ful the U.S. is not on the same trajectory as Italy in the coro­n­avirus strug­gle.

Dr. An­thony Fauci, di­rec­tor of the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Al­lergy and In­fec­tious Dis­eases, told CBS’ “Face the Na­tion” the strin­gent mea­sures be­ing put in place in the U.S., in­clud­ing travel re­stric­tions, the clos­ing of schools and many busi­nesses and other so­cial dis­tanc­ing, will go “a long way.”

U.S. Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin said he ex­pects Congress and the White House to reach full agree­ment later Sun­day on an eco­nomic stim­u­lus pack­age that could ap­proach $2 tril­lion to ad­dress the coro­n­avirus cri­sis, in­clud­ing $3,000 checks to fam­i­lies and other aid to last the next 10 weeks.

Sev­eral U.S. states have or­dered res­i­dents to stay in­doors. New York Gov. An­drew Cuomo said the govern­ment was “lit­er­ally scour­ing the globe look­ing for med­i­cal sup­plies.” Health care work­ers from Ok­la­homa City to Min­neapo­lis sought do­na­tions of pro­tec­tive equip­ment. Staff at a Detroit hos­pi­tal be­gan cre­at­ing home­made face masks for work­ers.

Na­tion­wide, there were at least 26,747 cases and 374 deaths as the U.S. over­took Ger­many as the coun­try with the fourth­high­est num­ber of cases. At least 38 peo­ple tested pos­i­tive at New York City’s Rik­ers Is­land jail com­plex – more than half of them in­mates. An­other in­mate be­came the first in the U.S. to test pos­i­tive in a fed­eral jail.

World­wide, more than 316,000 peo­ple have been in­fected and nearly 13,600 have died, ac­cord­ing to Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­sity. About 150 coun­tries now have con­firmed cases, and deaths have been re­ported in more than 30 Amer­i­can states.

For most peo­ple, the new coro­n­avirus causes only mild or moder­ate symp­toms, such as fever or cough­ing. For some, es­pe­cially older adults and peo­ple with ex­ist­ing health prob­lems, it can cause more se­vere ill­ness, in­clud­ing pneu­mo­nia.

Dur­ing his weekly Sun­day bless­ing, Pope Fran­cis urged all Chris­tians to join in recit­ing the “Our Fa­ther” prayer on Wed­nes­day at noon.

“To the virus pan­demic, we want to re­spond with the uni­ver­sal­ity of prayer, of com­pas­sion, of ten­der­ness,” the pope said.

Fran­cis, who be­gan stream­ing his au­di­ences on­line ear­lier this month due to virus con­cerns, said he would also lead a global bless­ing to an empty St. Peter’s Square on Fri­day. The “Urbi et Orbi” bless­ing is nor­mally re­served for Christ­mas Day and Easter.

In Bri­tain, staff at some hospi­tals have com­plained about short­ages of ven­ti­la­tors and pro­tec­tive equip­ment like face masks, safety glasses, gloves and pro­tec­tive suits.

Al­most 4,000 med­i­cal work­ers signed a let­ter to the Sun­day Times warn­ing that doc­tors and nurses in the Na­tional Health Ser­vice would die if they did not receive bet­ter equip­ment and said they felt like “can­non fod­der.”

“NHS staff are putting their lives on the line ev­ery day they turn up to work,” the let­ter said.

IVAN VA­LEN­CIA AP

The rel­a­tive of an in­mate cries Sun­day out­side La Modelo jail in Bo­gota, Colom­bia, after vi­o­lence broke out in the prison be­cause of in­mates’ fears.

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