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A Third of Americans Ordered to Stay at Home; Summer Olympics Postponed for One Year

By
HealthDay Reporters

TUESDAY, March 24, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- As the United States witnessed its deadliest day yet of the coronavirus pandemic on Monday, more than 100 million Americans -- nearly 1 in 3 -- have now been ordered by their state's governors to stay home.

More than 46,000 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed, with 100 new deaths reported on Monday alone, bringing the country's death toll to 541, CNN reported.

Also on Tuesday, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach agreed to postpone the Summer Olympics until at least the summer of 2021.

In the United States, a tripling in the number of coronavirus cases could make America the world's next hot spot, World Health Organization spokeswoman Margaret Harris said on Tuesday, the Washington Post reported.

"It's just going to get worse this week and worse next week," Dr. Leana Wen, a visiting professor at George Washington University, told CNN Monday night.

Things are particularly grim in New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that the rate of infections in the state is doubling nearly every three days. At that rate, the apex of the disease in the state was going to be higher and hit earlier than had been expected, the New York Times reported.

"We haven't flattened the curve, and the curve is actually increasing," he said. Instead of the 110,000 beds that state officials had first projected they would need, as many as 140,000 hospital beds might be necessary, the Times reported.

Along with Cuomo, at least 15 other governors have announced stay-at-home orders in states including California, Illinois, Louisiana, Ohio, Oregon, Washington state and Hawaii, CNN reported.

On Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order that all residents coming into Florida from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut airports quarantine themselves for 14 days.

Many cases in places like Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach have been tied to travelers arriving from New York, the Times reported.

"Hopefully that [order] will be a deterrent for people if you're just trying to escape here," DeSantis said Monday.

In stark contrast to aggressive moves by the nation's governors, President Donald Trump said Monday that concerns about the economy have made him eager to ease stringent social distancing measures as soon as possible.

Building medical supply chain

During a Monday White House briefing, Trump said that he wants to reopen the country for business in weeks, not months.

"We can't have the cure be worse than the problem," Trump said. "We have to open our country because that causes problems that, in my opinion, could be far bigger problems."

Also on Monday, Trump signed an executive order making it a crime to stockpile medical supplies, the Associated Press reported.

"If you are sitting on a warehouse with surgical masks, you will be hearing a knock on your door," Attorney General William Barr told reporters during the media briefing.

On Sunday, Trump approved disaster declarations for regions hit hardest by the pandemic, activating the National Guard in three states.

The declarations will bring supplies, medical stations and naval hospital ships to New York, Washington state and California, CNN reported. Trump said Sunday that the federal government was deploying the National Guard units to "to carry out approved missions" and as a "backup" to state leaders.

Four large medical stations with 1,000 beds each are going to be built in New York, Trump said, while eight medical stations are heading to California over the next 48 hours. In Washington state, Trump said seven medical stations will be set up, CBS News reported.

Meanwhile, the State Department has raised its global health advisory to the highest warning level and announced that Americans should not travel outside the country and citizens abroad should either return home or stay in place as the coronavirus pandemic grows.

"If you choose to travel internationally, your travel plans may be severely disrupted, and you may be forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite time frame," the advisory warned.

Economic help

Last week, President Donald Trump signed an $850 billion coronavirus relief package into law.

The package will provide sick leave, unemployment benefits and free coronavirus testing.

Even as the legislation became law, negotiations on a $2 trillion economic stabilization package appeared to stall on Monday, though negotiators plan to return to the table on Tuesday. That package would send $500 billion in direct payments to taxpayers and provide loans to businesses, the Times reported.

Trump has also invoked a wartime law that would allow the federal government to direct companies to produce medical supplies if needed.

As countries around the world wonder what is in store for their citizens in the coming months, one glimmer of hope has emerged: On Tuesday, China lifted travel restrictions on most of the Hubei province, which was hardest hit by coronavirus earlier this year. The city of Wuhan, the original epicenter of the outbreak, will remain under travel restrictions until April 8, the AP reported.

The good news in China stood in sharp relief to what is unfolding in Italy.

By Tuesday, Italy had almost 64,000 cases and 6,077 deaths, the Washington Post reported. The virus has been especially deadly for the European country's large older population. The health care system has also been stretched to a breaking point, especially in northern Italy.

State, local officials continue shutdowns

Meanwhile, state and local officials across the country continued to order the temporary closings of bars, nightclubs and restaurants.

Last Monday, the Trump administration ramped up its coronavirus "social distancing" advisory to now discourage gatherings of 10 or more people.

"This afternoon we're announcing new guidelines for every American to follow over the next 15 days," Trump said during a Monday media briefing.

In addition to advising against group gatherings of more than 10 people, Trump also discouraged eating and drinking at restaurants, bars and food courts, and any discretionary travel.

A computer modeling report from researchers at Imperial College London that predicted 2 million American deaths unless stringent social distancing measures were enacted may have convinced U.S health officials to take the extraordinary step, the Times reported.

According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, all Americans need to limit their contact with others to slow the rate of new infections.

"The worst is yet ahead for us," Fauci warned, and the crisis could continue into the summer. "It's how we respond [now] to that challenge that will determine what the ultimate endpoint is going to be."

The president also said his administration is doubling down on testing for COVID-19. Experts, including Fauci, have already called the initial slow rollout of such tests a system failure.

Stores such as Walmart, CVS and Walgreens have set aside part of their parking lots for drive-through testing.

States Race to Contain Virus

In the meantime, the public lives of Americans have come to a halt, as the coronavirus pandemic has prompted officials across the country to close, cancel or postpone any event or activity that might foster the spread of COVID-19.

A majority of states have shuttered all public schools, Broadway has gone dark, Disney World and Disneyland were closed, March Madness was canceled, and most professional sports leagues postponed their seasons. The International Olympic Committee also said Monday that it is considering postponing the upcoming Summer Olympics in Japan.

New York, Washington state and California have been the hardest hit by coronavirus cases in the United States, the Times reported. New York has 20,875, Washington state has 2,221 cases and California has 1,773.

Meanwhile, officials in Florida closed most popular beaches in the state on Sunday, after young spring breakers ignored social distancing guidelines and partied with abandon on the sand. That state now has 1,227 cases, with 17 deaths.

More than 380,000 people worldwide have now been infected and over 16,500 have died from the virus, according to a running tally kept by Johns Hopkins University, the AP reported. More than 1.5 billion people around the globe have been instructed to stay in their homes.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus.

SOURCES: March 16, 2020, media briefing with: President Donald Trump; March 9, 2020, media briefing with Vice President Mike Pence; U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Anthony Fauci, M.D., director, U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; CNN; Washington Post; Associated Press; New York Times

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