Coronavirus Update:The White House is seeking $500 billion in direct payments to taxpayers and President Trump invoked a wartime law to press companies to make medical supplies. Britain, bracing for a surge, puts 20,000 troops on standby.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York warned that the state’s health care system was going to be overwhelmed. “The question is now to what extent and with what consequence?” he said.
Here’s what you need to know:
- As the virus spreads, the human toll grows.
- China reports zero local infections, a major turning point.
- Many hospitalized in the U.S. are younger adults.
- First details of Trump’s economic package includes $500 billion for taxpayers.
- Testing in New York gathers speed as health officials rush to stem the spread in Hasidic communities.
- Queen Elizabeth heads to country home as Britain’s restrictions expand.
- What does ‘social distancing’ actually mean?
As the virus spreads, the human toll grows.
China reported its first day with no new locally transmitted coronavirus infections, three months after the first case was detected. But the march of the affliction gathered pace while nations throughout the world braced for a surge of infections and, ultimately, deaths.
For the Fusco family in Freehold, N.J., the dangers of the virus and its pernicious exploitation of human connection were laid bare when Grace Fusco, 73, died Wednesday night, hours after her son and five days after her daughter. Four other family members are hospitalized, three of them in critical condition, from an infection traced to a routine family gathering.
No one is safe.
Two members of Congress tested positive and were in isolation on Thursday. While older people remain at gravest risk worldwide, a C.D.C. report found that 38 percent of those who required hospitalization in the U.S. were aged 20 to 54.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, warned that as testing becomes more widespread, people would see the numbers soar.
President Trump signed a relief package to provide sick leave, unemployment benefits and free coronavirus testing, and lawmakers were drafting an even more sweeping $1 trillion economic stabilization package.
But even as the federal government invoked wartime powers to speed the production of essential medical equipment, such as surgical masks, protective body suits, testing kits and, especially, ventilators remained in short supply.
World leaders escalated pleas to the only ones who can ultimately help buy time: everyone.
“It’s down to each and every one of us,” Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said in a televised address. “We are not doomed to helplessly watch the spread of the virus. We have a means to fight it: we must practice social distancing.”
Failure to do so could result in even more stringent lockdowns that Germany has so far avoided, she said. “We are a democracy. We don’t live by force, but by shared knowledge and cooperation.”
In California, more than nine million people have been told not to leave their homes. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York resisted taking such a drastic step, even as he ordered businesses to compel employees to work from home.
In Spain, violations of isolation orders are enforced with fines. Russia is using facial-recognition technology to track down and fine people who violate mandatory quarantines. Beaches in Barcelona are closed, but many Americans were heading to sandy shores for Spring Break.
Even as nations wrestled with a public health emergency, the economic crisis grew darker, deepening the anxiety felt by people increasingly cut off from their support networks.
But, as Ms. Merkel said, even as a society in isolation, “we will show that we are there for one another.”
China reports zero local infections, a major turning point.
For the first time since the coronavirus crisis began, China on Thursday reported no new local infections for the previous day, a milestone in its costly battle with the outbreak that has since spread around the world.
Officials said 34 new coronavirus cases had been confirmed, all of them involving people who had come to China from elsewhere.
In signaling that an end to China’s epidemic might be in sight, the announcement could pave the way for officials to focus on reviving the country’s economy, which nearly ground to a halt after the government imposed travel restrictions and quarantine measures. In recent days, economic life has been resuming in fits and starts.
But China is not out of danger. Experts have said that it will need to see at least 14 consecutive days without new infections for the outbreak to be considered over. It remains to be seen whether the virus will re-emerge once daily life restarts and travel restrictions are lifted.
“It’s very clear that the actions taken in China have almost brought to an end their first wave of infections,” said Ben Cowling, a professor and head of the division of epidemiology and biostatistics at Hong Kong University’s School of Public Health. “The question is what will happen if there’s a second wave, because the kind of measures that China has implemented are not necessarily sustainable in the long term.”
To contain the outbreak, the authorities shut schools and workplaces, imposed travel restrictions, and ordered quarantines on broad swaths of the population and many visitors from abroad. Since January, more than 50 million people in the central province of Hubei, including its capital, Wuhan, where the outbreak began, have been subjected to a strict lockdown.
Many hospitalized in the U.S. are younger adults.
American adults of all ages — not just those in their 70s, 80s and 90s — are being seriously sickened by the coronavirus, according to a report on nearly 2,500 cases in the United States.
The report, issued Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that — as in other countries — the oldest patients were at greatest risk of becoming seriously ill or dying. But of the 508 coronavirus patients known to have been hospitalized in the United States, 38 percent were between 20 and 54. And nearly half of the 121 sickest patients studied — those admitted to intensive care units — were adults under 65.
“I think everyone should be paying attention to this,” said Stephen S. Morse, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University. “It’s not just going to be the elderly.”
Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, appealed on Wednesday for younger people to stop socializing in groups and to take care to protect themselves and others.
“You have the potential then to spread it to someone who does have a condition that none of us knew about, and cause them to have a disastrous outcome,” Dr. Birx said.