NEW YORK / LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – New York state saw another rapid and brutal surge in the number of COVID-19 wave cases of illness on Tuesday.
In New York City, the crowded home of over 8 million people, health officials attempted to find hospital beds for the growing number of coronavirus patients as the death toll across the state rose to 210 and more than 25,600 cases were confirmed.
The White House advised anyone who visited or left New York to isolate themselves.
“Anyone who has been to New York should quarantine themselves for the next 14 days to ensure that the virus does not spread to anyone, no matter where it went, whether it is Florida, North Carolina or far away Long Island areas, “said Deborah Birx, who heads the White House coronavirus tax agency, at a late afternoon press conference.
The expected need for hospital beds in the state of New York at the height of the outbreak has risen to 140,000, almost three times as much as available. Infections in New York now doubled every three days, and the worst could be two to three weeks away, said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Nationwide, COVID-19, which broke out in Wuhan, China, at the end of last year, infected more than 53,000 people and killed at least 720 people.
President Donald Trump declared major disasters for New York and Washington State, the country’s first hot spot with at least 117 deaths, and said he would soon do the same for California.
“A great national study”
“We are facing a major national process,” said Trump. The president tempered the vow to reopen the country’s economy by Easter and said he would listen to experts first, including Birx and Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
In California, where 51 people died and 2,200 tested positive, Governor Gavin Newsom said half of the confirmed cases were between 18 and 49 years old. Figures he said are “a reminder for everyone to take this seriously”.
Newsom cited the death of a teenage boy in Los Angeles County, although health officials there said the case was complex and an “alternative explanation” was possible.
Newsom, who warned that half of Californians – or about 25 million people – could be infected in the next two months, said that the next six to eight weeks would be critical to curbing the spread of the coronavirus slowed down.
California urgently lacks the hospital beds needed to care for so many critically ill patients, Newsom said, although Elon Musk, co-founder of Tesla, “fulfilled his promise” to deliver over 1,000 much-needed hospital ventilators and the state brought another one 3,000 online.
The U.S. Navy hospital ship Mercy was due to arrive in Los Angeles with 1,000 hospital beds on Friday to relieve the state’s health care system.
Despite the crisis, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose to its largest daily percentage gain since 1933 after U.S. lawmakers announced they were about to conclude a massive economic bailout deal in response to the outbreak.
NERVEN FRAY ABOUT AMERICA
The World Health Organization said Tuesday that the United States has the potential to become the global epicenter of the pandemic, citing a “huge acceleration” in coronavirus infections.
Democrats, including Governor Cuomo, have criticized Republican Trump for proposing to reopen the nation’s economy by mid-April.
“If you ask the American people to choose between public health and the economy, this is not competition. No American will say to accelerate the economy at the expense of human life,” said Cuomo earlier in the day.
Newsom did not criticize Trump, but said April “earlier than any of the experts I spoke to would believe that it was possible” April would see California lift its restrictions.
Governors of at least 18 states have issued guidelines for staying at home in the past few days. The comprehensive commands, unprecedented in their breadth and depth, comprise about half of the country’s population.
The rules are based on principles of social distancing, which aim to create more space between individuals to slow the spread of the highly contagious and potentially fatal virus.
Even before the first nationwide controls came into effect last week in California, the coronavirus pandemic had virtually paralyzed sectors of the US economy and changed Americans’ daily lives when school districts and colleges canceled classes.
The Americans reported frayed nerves after working from home for days, unable to participate in many activities, and caring for children who were out of school.
Terri Gilbert Thompson, 44, and her husband Scott, both teachers in Hilltown, Pennsylvania, juggled distance learning by teaching their own three children.
“It was a challenge, but we’re ready to make sure the virus doesn’t spread,” said Thompson. “We do our best to involve our students in learning, to monitor and enrich the learning of our own children, while maintaining our own health in this challenging time.”
Additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu in Washington, DC, Maria Caspani, Megan Davies and Gabriella Borter in New York, Lisa Shumaker in Chicago, Ross Kerber in Boston and Steve Gorman and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Letters from Alistair Bell and Dan Whitcomb; Edited by Frank McGurty, Bill Tarrant, Sonya Hepinstall and Lincoln Feast.