US health ex­pert warns virus still has ‘a long way to run’

The State - - News - BY FRANK JOR­DANS AND NO­MAAN MER­CHANT

A pub­lic health ex­pert says the new coro­n­avirus still “has a long way to run” de­spite Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s claim last week that it will go away with­out a vac­cine.

Dr. Tom In­glesby says it’s likely that only a small por­tion of the United States has been in­fected, “so most of us are still sus­cep­ti­ble to this virus.” In­glesby is the direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Health Se­cu­rity of the Johns Hop­kins Bloomberg School of Pub­lic Health.

He says the na­tion does not have suf­fi­cient test­ing or trac­ing the con­tacts of peo­ple who do test pos­i­tive for what he de­scribed as a “re­ally nasty virus.” In­glesby says the dan­ger is that as busi­nesses re­open and Amer­i­cans start to re­sume nor­mal ac­tiv­i­ties “with in­creased so­cial in­ter­ac­tion, we will again see in­creased trans­mis­sion and ris­ing num­ber of cases.”

Re­act­ing to Trump’s as­ser­tion that the virus sim­ply will dis­ap­pear, In­glesby says, “No, this virus isn’t go­ing to go away. Hope­fully, over time, we’ll learn to live with it and we’ll be able to re­duce the risk of trans­mis­sion. But it’s go­ing to stay as a back­ground prob­lem in the coun­try and around the world un­til we have a vac­cine.”

Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin on Sun­day said the job­less num­bers in the United States “are prob­a­bly go­ing to get worse be­fore they get bet­ter,” but the big­ger risk to the coun­try is keep­ing busi­nesses closed rather than states al­low­ing some to re­open.

Mnuchin spoke as most states are be­gin­ning to loosen their re­stric­tions on busi­nesses af­ter ex­tended shut­downs de­signed to slow the spread of the new coro­n­avirus. He said that if re-open­ings are not al­lowed, it would have per­ma­nent eco­nomic dam­age to the Amer­i­can pub­lic.

An­other 3.2 mil­lion U.S. work­ers ap­plied for job­less ben­e­fits last week, bring­ing the to­tal over the past seven weeks to 33.5 mil­lion.

Mnuchin says that in­creased test­ing and the prospect of bet­ter treat­ments will give busi­nesses and work­ers the con­fi­dence to re­open in a care­ful way. He says, “you are go­ing to have a very, very bad sec­ond quar­ter. And then I think you’re go­ing to see a bounce-back from a low stand­point.”

Mean­while, new clus­ters of coro­n­avirus in­fec­tions over­seas are ig­nit­ing con­cerns about a sec­ond wave even as calls grow in some coun­tries to re­lax re­stric­tions even fur­ther.

In Ger­many, where thou­sands have protested re­main­ing re­stric­tions, health of­fi­cials say the num­ber of peo­ple each con­firmed coro­n­avirus pa­tient in­fects rose above 1 again, re­flect­ing a re­newed in­crease in cases. The num­ber must be be­low 1 for out­breaks to de­cline.

Health of­fi­cials world­wide are watch­ing to see just how much in­fec­tion rates rise in a sec­ond wave as na­tions and states emerge from vary­ing de­grees of lock­down.

U.K. Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son an­nounced a mod­est eas­ing of the coun­try’s coro­n­avirus lock­down Sun­day and out­lined his govern­ment’s road map for fur­ther lift­ing re­stric­tions in the com­ing months.

In a tele­vised ad­dress to the na­tion, John­son said peo­ple in Bri­tain who can’t work from home, such as those in con­struc­tion or man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs, “should be ac­tively en­cour­aged to go to work” this week.

He said that start­ing Wed­nes­day, a re­stric­tion lim­it­ing out­door ex­er­cise to once a day will be lifted and that peo­ple will be able to take “un­lim­ited amounts.”

The prime min­is­ter, who spent a week in the hospi­tal re­ceiv­ing treat­ment for COVID-19, stressed that so­cial dis­tanc­ing guide­lines still will have to be ob­served and said it would be “mad­ness” to al­low a sec­ond spike in in­fec­tions.

John­son also laid out a “con­di­tional plan” for re­lax­ing other lock­down re­stric­tions in the com­ing months, in­clud­ing the pos­si­ble re­turn to school for some younger chil­dren on June 1. He said he hoped some of the hospi­tal­ity in­dus­try can re­open a month later.

China re­ported 14 new cases Sun­day, its first dou­ble-digit rise in 10 days. Eleven of 12 do­mes­tic in­fec­tions were in the north­east­ern prov­ince of Jilin, which prompted au­thor­i­ties to raise the threat level in one of its coun­ties, Shu­lan, to high risk, just days af­ter down­grad­ing all re­gions to low risk.

Au­thor­i­ties said the Shu­lan out­break orig­i­nated with a 45-year-old wo­man who had no re­cent travel or ex­po­sure history but spread it to her hus­band, her three sis­ters and other fam­ily mem­bers. Train ser­vices in the county were be­ing sus­pended.

“Epi­demic con­trol and preven­tion is a se­ri­ous and com­pli­cated mat­ter, and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties should never be overly op­ti­mistic, war-weary or off-guard,” said Jilin Com­mu­nist Party sec­re­tary Bayin Chaolu.

South Korea re­ported 34 more cases as new in­fec­tions linked to night­clubs threaten the coun­try’s hard-won gains against the virus. It was the first time that South Korea’s daily in­fec­tions were above 30 in about a month.

The head of Egypt’s Doc­tors’ Union has called for a full lock­down across the coun­try to help fight the pan­demic. It comes amid a spike in in­fec­tions in the Arab World’s most pop­u­lous coun­try.

Dr. Hus­sein Khairy told lo­cal me­dia Sun­day that he sent a let­ter to Prime Min­is­ter Mustafa Mad­bouly last week urg­ing for the pro­posed lock­down to last for two weeks or un­til the end of the Mus­lim holy month of Ra­madan.

He ar­gued that the lock­down would deal a “swift and mas­sive blow” to the virus and “flat­ten” the curve of in­fec­tions.

Egypt has halted in­ter­na­tional air travel and shut­tered schools, uni­ver­si­ties, mosques, churches and ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites, in­clud­ing the famed Giza pyra­mids. A cur­few is in place from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

The par­tial lock­down is to con­tinue un­til the end of Ra­madan.

The coun­try of 100 mil­lion peo­ple has ex­pe­ri­enced a surge in in­fec­tions in the past cou­ple of days.

AN­DREW MEDI­CHINI AP

A nun waits for Pope Fran­cis to de­liver his bless­ing Sun­day from his win­dow over­look­ing an empty St. Peter’s Square. The pope is call­ing on lead­ers of Euro­pean Union na­tions to work to­gether on the so­cial and eco­nomic con­se­quences of the COVID-19 pan­demic.

NATHAN DENETTE The Cana­dian Press via AP

Peo­ple prac­tice so­cial dis­tanc­ing while pad­dle board­ing Sun­day in Hum­ber Bay on Lake On­tario in Toronto.

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