Hospitals in demand as death tolls rise around the world
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.
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.