World COVID-19 updates: U.S. cases surge past 125,000; Disease slows slightly in Italy

World COVID-19 updates: U.S. cases surge past 125,000; Disease slows slightly in Italy
World COVID-19 updates: U.S. cases surge past 125,000; Disease slows slightly in Italy
World COVID-19 updates: U.S. cases surge past 125,000; Disease slows slightly in Italy
World COVID-19 updates: U.S. cases surge past 125,000; Disease slows slightly in Italy
World COVID-19 updates: U.S. cases surge past 125,000; Disease slows slightly in Italy

The latest on the coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

Black Press Media posted this round-up of Associated Press files from around the world at 3:30 p.m., Monday, March 30.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

  • California waives some professional licensing to get doctors and nurses to work
  • Italy sees slowdown in rate of new cases.
  • Seattle area must ‘double-down’

California and New York scramble to get medical workers

The governors of California and New York are moving to rapidly expand their health care work forces, as the death toll from COVID-19 in New York surged past 1,200 while hospitalizations in California doubled in the last four days.

The escalating statistics tied to the spread of coronavirus underscored the health risk for millions of Americans, regardless of whether they call home the Midwest farm belt, the rural South or a sprawling coastal metropolis. The top infectious-disease expert in the United States is warning that smaller U.S. cities are about to witness the rapid acceleration in coronavirus cases that New York has documented.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said he was waiving certain professional licensing and certification requirements to staff at least an additional 50,000 hospital beds to handle an expected surge in cases.

“If you’re a nursing school student, a medical school student, we need you,” Newsom said. “If you’ve just retired in the last few years, we need you.”

In New York, most of the deaths have been in New York City, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the statewide death toll had shot up by 253 in a single day, and April is expected to be worse.

New York’s governor issued an urgent appeal for medical volunteers Monday amid a surging number of deaths, as health officials warned that the crisis unfolding in New York City is just a preview of what other communities across the U.S. could soon face.

The U.S. surpassed 125,000 cases and about 43% of those are in New York state. Testing is one reason. Doctors can’t detect an infection if they don’t look for it, and New York has been doing more testing than anywhere in the country.

Social distancing is working in Seattle, but the region must double-down

Public health officials and researchers say social distancing appears to be helping slow the spread of COVID-19 in the Seattle area, where many of the first U.S. deaths occurred.

Dr. Jeff Duchin, the public health officer for Seattle and King County, says a new analysis by the Bellevue-based Institute of Disease Modeling provides a powerful indication that the region needs to double-down on the policies it’s already adopted.

In two papers released Monday, the Institute for Disease Modeling acknowledged that much remains unknown about rates of infection, but based on available data and a variety of assumptions, its computer models suggest that a measure of transmission an estimate of how many people are infected by each person who is already infected has fallen.

DC issues a stay-at-home order for all residents

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The District of Columbia has issued a stay-home order for all residents as the number of positive infections from the new coronavirus continue to rise.

Mayor Muriel Bowser’s government ordered Washington’s approximately 7,000,000 residents to only leave home for essential shopping or medical care or work at businesses classified as essential. The order permits “allowable recreational activities” essentially walking or bike riding alone or with your family while maintaining social distancing with others.

Any violators may be charged with a misdemeanour.

Although Washington, D.C., is not a state, Mayor Muriel Bowser essentially functions as a governor and issued the order in co-ordination with identical moves from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.

Washington’s infection numbers have climbed steadily for the past week to 401. Nine people have died, including a senior member of Bowser’s staff.

Washington state: 16 people test positive at psychiatric hospital

SEATTLE — At least 12 workers and four patients at Washington state’s largest psychiatric hospital have tested positive for the new coronavirus and one patient has died from the disease, officials said.

The 85-year-old Western State Hospital patient tested positive on March 21 and died last Thursday, the Washington Department of Health and Human Services told The Associated Press. The other patient who tested positive has since fully recovered, the agency said. Western state workers have been critical of the administration’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

Officials arrest megachurch pastor for violating social distancing order

TAMPA, Fla. — Florida officials have arrested the pastor of a megachurch after detectives say he held two Sunday services with hundreds of people and violated a safer-at-home order in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

According to jail records, Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne turned himself in to authorities in Hernando County, where he lives. He was charged with unlawful assembly and violation of a public health emergency order. Bail was set at $500, according to the jail’s website, and he was released after posting bond.

U.N. warns that Syria will be devastated by COVID-19

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. humanitarian chief is warning that the 10 cases of COVID-19 and one death confirmed in Syria are just “the tip of the iceberg” and judging from other countries “a devastating impact” can be expected on vulnerable communities.

Mark Lowcock told the U.N. Security Council that “all efforts to prevent, detect and respond to COVID-19 are impeded by Syria’s fragile health system,” noting only around half of the country’s hospitals and primary health care facilities were fully functional at the end of 2019.

He said efforts to prevent and combat the virus are also are impeded by high levels of population movement, challenges to obtaining critical supplies including protective equipment and ventilators, and difficulties of isolating in crowded camps for the displaced with “low levels of sanitation services.”

Pentagon orders 8,000 more ventilators

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has ordered an additional 8,000 ventilators, with delivery of the first 1,400 by early May. The $84.4 million order was placed with several suppliers under existing Defence Logistics Agency contracts.

A Pentagon spokesman, Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Andrews, identified the four suppliers as Zoll, Combat Medical, Hamilton Medical, and VyAire. Andrews said delivery locations will be prioritized by FEMA and the Department of Health and Human Services. These are in addition to the 2,000 ventilators that the Pentagon previously said it would make available to FEMA from Defence Department stockpiles.

San Francisco Bay Area counties extent shelter at home orders

SAN FRANCISCO — The leaders of six San Francisco Bay Area counties are extending their shelter at home orders until May 1.

The region of seven million people was the first in the United States to issue such an order, and it has been credited for helping address the influx of coronavirus patients at local hospitals.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed thanked residents for following the order during the weekend, saying compliance was much better than the previous weekend when some people flocked to parks and beaches.

At least 130 people have died in California from COVID-19.

Congresswoman who attended House session tests positive

WASHINGTON — New York Rep. Nydia Velazquez, a Democrat who attended Friday’s House session to pass a $2 trillion rescue package, says Monday in a statement that she has a presumed coronavirus infection.

Velazquez, who represents parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan, stood within feet of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic and Republican leaders at a signing ceremony after the bill was passed.

Velazquez, 67, says in the statement that she began to feel ill Sunday morning and spoke to the Capitol’s attending physician by phone. She says she was diagnosed with a presumed infection but has mild symptoms and is isolating at home, as the doctor recommended.

St. Petersburg orders lockdown

MOSCOW The mayor of St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city, has ordered a wide-ranging lockdown.

The measure sets the same conditions as in Moscow. Residents are ordered to stay at home except for medical emergencies, buying food and medication, disposing of garbage and walking pets within 100 metres (320 feet) of home. It also allows people to go to their workplaces if required.

St. Petersburg, with a population of about 5.5 million, has reported 50 cases of the coronavirus and one death.

Vicar of Rome tests positive

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis’ vicar for Rome has tested positive for the coronavirus in the first case of a cardinal close to the pope known to be infected.

Cardinal Angelo De Donatis had been in touch with Francis in recent weeks apparently not in person, however over the cardinal’s initial decision to close all Rome churches in line with an Italian government shutdown decree.

De Donatis reversed himself after Francis intervened, and allowed diocesan churches to remain open for individuals to pray.

The pope is technically bishop of Rome, but he delegates the day-to-day running of the diocese to his vicar, De Donatis, 66. The Rome church said De Donatis was in good condition at Rome’s Gemelli hospital and was receiving antiviral treatment.

The Holy See has said six people have tested positive for the virus in the Vatican, none of them the pope or his closest advisers.

Italy: Lockdown extended to at least April 12

ROME Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza says Italy will follow the recommendation of scientists and extend a nationwide lockdown at least until April 12.

The lockdown decree currently runs until April 3, and doctors and other health experts have been cautioning that Italy’s cases of COVID-19 haven’t reached their peak yet, despite some encouraging numbers.

Speranza says the national scientific technical committee recommended “extending the containment measures at least until Easter,” April 12. He added: “The government will move in this direction.”

Italy has more than 100,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus infections and nearly 11,600 deaths of infected persons.

WHO warns that improper face mask wear may cause harm

GENEVA — The World Health Organization is citing “some evidence” that wearing face masks if used improperly could actually do more harm than good in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus.

WHO emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan said he was unaware of a move by officials in Austria to require people to wear face masks when they go to supermarkets.

With some countries facing shortages of masks, Ryan reiterated that WHO believes generally they should be worn by people who are ill, to prevent them from spreading the virus, and by health care workers who really need them.

“But there is no specific evidence to suggest that the wearing of masks by the mass population has any particular benefit in fact, there’s some evidence to suggest the opposite,” he said.

Ryan didn’t elaborate beyond citing “risks” linked to fitting masks improperly, though he appeared to be alluding to how hands can carry virus up to or near the face as the masks are put on.

Sweeping Czech travel ban extended

PRAGUE The Czech government has extended its sweeping restrictions that are meant to help curb the outbreak of the coronavirus.

A travelling ban that allows people just to go to work and do essential shopping will be in place until at least April 11. Retail businesses, except food stores and pharmacies, also will remain closed until the same date.

The state of emergency that gives the government some extraordinary powers to deal with the pandemic also is set to expire on April 11, and parliamentary approval will be needed for any further extension.

In a new measure, all Czechs returning home from abroad, not just those arriving from the 19 worst hit countries by the crisis, will have to be quarantined for two weeks.

UK: Lockdown measures ae working

LONDON — The British government’s chief scientific adviser says there is evidence nationwide lockdown measures are working to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

Patrick Vallance says the number of hospital admissions for COVID-19 is rising steadily, “suggesting we’re not on a fast acceleration at the moment.”

There are currently 9,000 coronavirus patients in hospitals in England, a number increasing by about 1,000 a day.

Vallance says the number of deaths among people with the virus is tracking the rise seen in France but is below the trajectories of Spain and Italy, the hardest-hit European countries.

The U.K. has confirmed 22,141 cases of COVID-19, and 1,408 people with the virus have died. That is an increase of 180 on the previous 24 hours, a smaller rise than in the two previous days.

Despite 812 deaths in one day, Italy sees infection rate slow

ROME — Italy is seeing a continued slowdown in the rate of its new confirmed coronavirus cases while registering a record number of people cured as it enters its third week into a nationwide lockdown.

Another 812 people died in the last day, bringing Italy’s toll to 11,591 and maintaining its position as the country with the most dead.

Overall, Italy added 4,050 new infections Monday, bringing its official total to 101,739 and keeping its place as the European epicenter of the pandemic and second only to the U.S. Epidemiologists say the real number of Italy’s caseload, however, is as much as five to 10 times more than the official number, but that those cases aren’t being counted because Italy is only testing people with severe symptoms. Of those infected, 14,620 have been declared cured, including a record 1,590 in the past day.

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