USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - — Matt Le­clercq

Amer­ica’s epi­cen­ter

More than half of New York City can ex­pect to be­come in­fected with the coro­n­avirus, Mayor Bill de Bla­sio warned as con­firmed cases rose to 17,000 Wed­nes­day. “The world we knew is gone,” he said, “and it’s not com­ing back, not for the next few months. That’s the blunt truth.”

Gov. An­drew Cuomo said so­cial dis­tanc­ing has helped, but the state will need 140,000 hospi­tal beds.

Mount­ing toll

Na­tion­ally, 869 peo­ple have died as of Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon. Re­ports were emerg­ing of more chil­dren among the 62,000 U. S. con­firmed in­fec­tions. The global death toll stood at more than 20,000. Italy saw a jump in deaths, now at 6,800, and Spain’s 3,400 deaths have sur­passed China’s. Among the world’s 450,000 in­fec­tions is the U. K.’ s Prince Charles, 71, who has mild symp­toms.

‘ Beg mercy for mankind’

Pope Fran­cis in­vited Chris­tians around the world to pray to­gether, livestream­ing from the Vat­i­can’s li­brary. “We pray for the sick and their families; for health work­ers and those who help them; for the au­thor­i­ties, law en­force­ment agen­cies and vol­un­teers; for the min­is­ters of our com­mu­ni­ties.”

Life in a pan­demic

Wal­mart and other re­tail­ers are in­stalling plex­i­glass sneeze guards at reg­is­ters. Gap Inc. is shift­ing re­sources to make gear for health care work­ers. Air­lines are lim­it­ing snack service, while Star­bucks says it will serve free cof­fee to emer­gency and health care work­ers through May 3. Waffle House, known for weath­er­ing many a dis­as­ter, is clos­ing 365 din­ers.

Mean­while, Amer­i­cans in hard- hit states scram­bled for test­ing. More than 100 cars lined up out­side a New Jer­sey virus test site, some overnight. “I don’t un­der­stand why there are so many peo­ple and so few tests,” one driver said. “This is crazy.”

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