U.S. Coronavirus Cases Top 163,000; Death Count Set to Surpass China's Total
TUESDAY, March 31, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- As U.S. coronavirus cases surged past 163,000 on Tuesday, Americans were told they may soon get a look at the statistical disease models that public officials have been using to urge more than 250 million people to stay at home.
The U.S. coronavirus death toll also edged past 3,000, close to surpassing China's death count of 3,305, the New York Times reported.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday asked health care workers in less hard-hit areas to help battle coronavirus in New York City, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak.
"If you don't have a health care crisis within your community, please come help us now," Cuomo said, CBS News reported. "Today it's New York, tomorrow it will be somewhere else. This is the time for us to help one another."
Cuomo's plea came the same day that the leaders of Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., issued stay-at-home orders for the more than 15.2 million residents of those three states, the Washington Post reported.
While all three jurisdictions had already banned gatherings, closed businesses and schools, and urged people to stay home, the new orders are mandatory and breaking them could include fines and potential jail time.
"We are no longer asking or suggesting Marylanders to stay home," Gov. Larry Hogan said during a news conference Monday in Annapolis. "We are directing them."
By Tuesday morning, 163,575 COVID-19 cases had been reported nationwide, with 3,073 deaths, the Times reported.
Trump extends social distancing guidelines
In the face of rapidly rising coronavirus case numbers and deaths, President Donald Trump on Sunday backed down on plans to re-open the country by Easter -- instead extending strict social distancing guidelines for the country to April 30.
Trump was apparently convinced by the data his public health experts have shown him, indicating that easing social distancing could quickly escalates the number of cases and deaths. So, he said all Americans must continue to avoid nonessential travel, going to work, eating at bars and restaurants, or gathering in groups of more than 10 for at least another month, the Times reported.
"During this period, it's very important that everyone strongly follow the guidelines. Have to follow the guidelines," Trump said during a media briefing Sunday afternoon. "Therefore, we will be extending our guidelines to April 30 to slow the spread."
Earlier in the day, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force and the country's top infectious diseases expert, had estimated that 200,000 people could die from coronavirus in the United States, the Times reported.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, added that without any social distancing measures, the same computer models project that nearly 2 million Americans could die from COVID-19.
"The idea that we may have these many cases played a role in our decision in trying to make sure that we don't do something prematurely, and pull back when we should be pushing," Fauci explained during the Sunday media briefing.
"Dr. Birx and I spent a considerable amount of time going over all the data, why we felt this was a best choice for us, and the president accepted it," Fauci said.
On Monday, Trump said during a media briefing that on Tuesday Americans will get a look at the disease spread models that U.S. officials have been using to guide their plans to battle coronavirus.
Travel advisory for states near New York City
In an unprecedented move on Saturday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged all residents of three states surrounding New York City -- New York, New Jersey and Connecticut -- to refrain from travel to other states over the next 14 days, to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Although coronavirus hotspots continue to emerge throughout the country, New York City remains the epicenter of the American epidemic, with thousands of cases reported and area hospitals overwhelmed.
"The Governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut will have full discretion to implement this Domestic Travel Advisory," the CDC said in a statement issued Saturday.
As the U.S. economy continues to falter, Trump signed a $2 trillion stimulus package into law last Friday.
The legislation will send $1,200 to millions of Americans, including those earning up to $75,000, along with $500 per child. It will also give an additional 13 weeks in unemployment aid and a four-month enhancement of jobless benefits, the Times reported.
The package also includes $377 billion in federally guaranteed loans to small businesses and the creation of a $500 billion government lending program for distressed companies. Hospitals on the front lines of the pandemic will also get $100 billion in aid, the Times reported.
New York City in crisis
The help comes not a moment too soon, as more than 250 million Americans in 29 states have been ordered by their state's governors to stay home, the Times reported.
New York state is the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, with at least 67,174 cases and 1,200 deaths, according to the Times.
Things are particularly dire in New York City, as hospitals that have become overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients and now face a shortage of many medical supplies, the Times reported.
Cuomo did offer up some good news last week, saying that social distancing measures might be working. The state's hospitalization estimations were down markedly, from a doubling of cases every two days to a doubling every four days.
And in New Rochelle, N.Y., drastic measures to contain a cluster there appeared to be paying off with a slowing in new cases, the Times reported.
But cases are just starting to spike elsewhere, particularly in the South: Louisiana, Florida and Georgia are facing alarming increases, with 12,751 cases and 359 deaths reported in those three states alone, the Times reported Tuesday.
And some health officials are warning that parts of Michigan and Illinois could be the next epicenters of the coronavirus pandemic, CNN reported.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, said last week that health officials are concerned that counties like Wayne County, Mich., and Cook County, Ill., are showing a "more rapid increase" in cases.
'Nowhere near ready'
"We are in for a bumpy ride for the next 12 to 18 months," Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told CNN. "If we are aggressive now about stopping things, shutting down, building up a test regime, we can then open up again … and most places can go back to work. But only when we are ready. And we are nowhere near ready now."
Around the world, countries have taken drastic steps to slow the spread of coronavirus: India ordered a 21-day shutdown of a country in which 1.3 billion people live, while Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach agreed to postpone the Summer Olympics in that country. On Monday, organizers announced the games will be held in July 2021, CNN reported.
The United Kingdom has also ordered a shutdown of its country, while Prince Charles, the 71-year-old heir to the British throne, was diagnosed with coronavirus on Wednesday, CNN reported. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Friday, CNN reported.
As different nations wonder what is in store for their citizens in the coming months, one glimmer of hope has emerged: Last week, China lifted travel restrictions on the Hubei province, which was hardest hit by coronavirus earlier this year. Public transportation was re-opened on Monday in Wuhan, the city that was the original epicenter of the outbreak, the Associated Press said.
On Tuesday, Chinese officials reported just 48 new coronavirus cases, claiming that all came from overseas travel, the Associated Press reported.
The good news in China stood in sharp relief to what is unfolding in Italy.
Italy has now passed China for coronavirus cases, reporting close to 101,379 cases and 11,591 deaths, a Timestally showed Tuesday morning. The virus has been especially deadly for older Italians. But the country has seen a slowing in the rate of new infections, the Times added.
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.
New York, New Jersey and California have been hard hit by coronavirus cases in the United States. New York has more than 67,000 cases, New Jersey has more than 16,600 cases and California's case count has topped 7,400 cases, according to the Times.
However, signs of hope emerged in Washington state, where strict social distancing measures may be contributing to a leveling off in new cases, the Times reported.
Meanwhile, officials in Florida have closed all beaches in the state after young spring breakers ignored social distancing guidelines and partied with abandon on the sand. Florida now has nearly 5,700 cases, with 71 deaths.
State officials planned to meet on Tuesday to decide whether to let the coronavirus-plagued cruise ship Zaandam dock in Port Canaveral after more than two weeks at sea, the AP reported. Dozens on the ship have reported flu-like symptoms and four people have died. The company said eight have tested positive for COVID-19, but 2,300 other passengers and crew are in good health, the wire service reported.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has already said the state's health care resources are stretched too thin to allow the ship to dock.
Worldwide, the case count passed 800,000 while the death toll neared 39,000 on Tuesday, according to a Johns Hopkins tally.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus.