Virus cri­sis ebbs in China, spreads fear west­ward

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - FRONT PAGE - By Lori Hin­nant and Ken Morit­sugu

More than 92,000 peo­ple have been sick­ened and over 3,100 have died, the vast ma­jor­ity of them in China.

PARIS >> The coro­n­avirus cri­sis shifted in­creas­ingly west­ward to­ward the Mideast, Europe and the United States on Tues­day, with gov­ern­ments tak­ing emer­gency steps to ease short­ages of face masks and other sup­plies for front-line doc­tors and nurses.

“We are con­cerned that coun­tries’ abil­i­ties to re­spond are be­ing com­pro­mised by the se­vere and in­creas­ing dis­rup­tion to the global sup­ply of per­sonal pro­tec­tive equip­ment, caused by ris­ing de­mand, hoard­ing and mis­use,” said the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion’s di­rec­tor-gen­eral, Te­dros Ad­hanom Ghe­breye­sus. “We can’t stop COVID-19 with­out pro­tect­ing our health work­ers.”

Around the world, deaths in Italy surged to 79, mak­ing it the dead­li­est re­ported out­break out­side China. Twenty-three mem­bers of Iran’s Par­lia­ment and the head of the coun­try’s emer­gency ser­vices were re­ported in­fected. South Korea started driv­ethru test­ing. And in Spain’s Basque re­gion, at least five doc­tors and nurses were in­fected and nearly 100 health care work­ers were be­ing held in iso­la­tion.

The mush­room­ing out­breaks con­trasted with op­ti­mism in China, where thou­sands of re­cov­ered pa­tients were go­ing home and the num­ber of new in­fec­tions dropped to the low­est level in sev­eral weeks.

World­wide, more than 92,000 peo­ple have been sick­ened and over 3,100 have died, the vast ma­jor­ity of them in China. The num­ber of coun­tries hit by the virus reached at least 70, with Ukraine and Morocco re­port­ing their first cases.

Virus clus­ters in the United States led schools and sub­ways to san­i­tize, quick­ened the search for a vac­cine and spread fears among nurs­ing home res­i­dents, who are espe­cially vul­ner­a­ble. The num­ber of the in­fec­tions in the U.S. topped 100 and the death toll climbed to nine. All of the deaths were in Wash­ing­ton state, and most of them were res­i­dents of a Seat­tle-area nurs­ing home.

The U.S. Fed­eral Re­serve an­nounced the big­gest in­ter­est-rate cut in over a decade to try to counter the ex­pected dam­age to the econ­omy, and stocks rose briefly on Wall Street in re­ac­tion be­fore slump­ing again. Fed Chair­man Jerome Pow­ell said the virus “will surely weigh on eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity both here and abroad for some time.”

Other Group of Seven coun­tries ap­peared re­luc­tant to fol­low suit with their own cuts, prob­a­bly be­cause many of their in­ter­est rates are al­ready near or be­low zero.

The U.S. Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion gave health care work­ers the OK to use an in­dus­trial type of res­pi­ra­tor mask of­ten used to pro­tect con­struc­tion work­ers from dust and de­bris.

Iran’s supreme leader or­dered the mil­i­tary to as­sist health of­fi­cials in fight­ing the virus, which au­thor­i­ties said has killed 77 peo­ple. Among the dead are a con­fi­dant of Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s for­mer am­bas­sador to the Vat­i­can and a re­cently elected mem­ber of Par­lia­ment.

Iran’s ju­di­ciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi, said some peo­ple are stock­pil­ing med­i­cal sup­plies for profit and urged pros­e­cu­tors to show no mercy. “Hoard­ing san­i­tiz­ing items is play­ing with peo­ple’s lives, and it is not ig­nor­able,” he said.

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