Coronavirus cases surge in US: ‘This week, it’s going to get bad’
American states and cities are desperate for help to fight coronavirus; military prepares. The US now has the third highest number of cases -- more than 42,000 -- in the world, behind Italy and China.
As the world is battling the deadly coronavirus pandemic, the US has now the third highest number of cases -- more than 42,000 -- in the world, behind Italy and China. Though the country, state by state, is tightening lockdown measures, US Surgeon General Jerome Adams has given a “somber” message to the nation: "I want America to understand — this week, it's going to get bad".
Adams told NBC that some people in the US have not been properly practicing social distancing.
"This is how the spread is occurring. So we really, really need everyone to stay at home," Adams said. "I think that there are a lot of people who are doing the right things, but I think that unfortunately we're finding out a lot of people think this can't happen to them."
His warning come as several more US governors on Monday joined the procession of states ordering millions of Americans to stay at home to slow the spread of the coronavirus, while President Trump signalled he's considering a move in the opposite direction.
Public health authorities have pushed for the stay-at-home restrictions as essential to curb widespread transmission of a highly contagious respiratory virus that has killed at least 559. Half of America's total caseload is in New York state, which has recorded more than 20,000 positive tests and 157 deaths.
US National Guard troops are helping to distribute food and medical supplies across the country. The homeland military force's leader, General Joseph Lengyel, described the situation as like having "54 different hurricanes hitting every state".
On Monday, Washington, Ohio, Louisiana, Oregon, Michigan, Indiana and Massachusetts became the latest to issue "stay at home" orders for residents. Wisconsin, Delaware and New Mexico will follow suit on Tuesday, taking the total number of states withdrawing behind closed doors to well over a dozen.
These orders will affect about one in three Americans - more than 100 million people.
While a wave of statewide social distancing measures expanded, further stifling the US economy amid another day of plunging stock prices and growing fears of a global recession, Trump said: "We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself."
"America will again and soon be open for business," Trump told a White House news conference. "We are not going to let it turn into a long-lasting financial problem."
WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF. AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 23, 2020
A $2 trillion economic stimulus bill, however, stalled in the US Senate as Democrats pressed for more money for states and hospitals and restrictions on business bailouts.
The President said he would re-evaluate his administration's position on whether to continue restricting business activity at the end of the month, after the lapse of a 15-day guidance the White House issued on March 15 to limit social interactions and curb unnecessary travel.
Trump suggested it was possible to ease up on businesses in states experiencing what he said were relatively low infection rates, like Nebraska, Idaho and Iowa, while continuing to clamp down on hot zones in other states, such as New York.
"If it were up to the doctors, they'd say let's shut down the entire world," Trump said.
MORE STATES IN LOCKDOWN
Since last week, governors in at least 18 states accounting for nearly half the US population have issued directives requiring residents to stay mostly indoors, except for necessary trips to grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and doctors' offices. "Non-essential" businesses have also been ordered closed.
The measures are based on social distancing principles aimed at increasing the amount of space between individuals in order to stem transmission of a potentially lethal illness that threatens to overwhelm the nation's hospitals.
Washington, which accounts for over a quarter of the deaths, became the latest state to issue "stay at home" orders. "This is a human tragedy on a scale we cannot yet project. So it's time to hunker down to win this fight," said Washington Governor Jay Inslee.
Even before statewide restrictions began to go into effect last week, the coronavirus pandemic had virtually paralyzed sectors of the American economy and shattered US lifestyles as school districts and colleges cancelled classes, and many companies shuttered workplaces, either voluntarily or under local government orders.
While Trump's latest remarks showed his concern about the economic fallout, state and local officials continued to raise alarms about a healthcare delivery system in danger of collapse.
California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Monday his state needs 50,000 additional hospital beds to accommodate a surge in coronavirus patients predicted by computer modeling.
NEW YORK IS WORST AFFECTED
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio appealed for ventilators, masks and other medical equipment, even asking for help from private citizens.
Karine Raymond, a nurse at Jack D. Weiler Hospital in New York City's Bronx borough, said most nurses were unable to get specialized N95 masks and even simpler surgical masks were in short supply. Nurses are being told to wear them for as long as possible, she said.
"We are the be all and end all and lifeline to these patients, and yet we are being contaminated and cross contaminating,” Raymond said.
On Monday, health expert Deborah Birx said at a news briefing with Trump that the greater New York City area has an "attack rate close to one in a thousand" -- five times higher than what other areas are experiencing.
Some 28% of tests in New York are positive, she said -- compared to less than 8% in the rest of the country.
"(New Yorkers are) the group that needs to absolutely social distance and self isolate at this time. Clearly the virus had been circling there for a number of weeks to have this level of penetrance into the community," she said.
RESCUES SOUGHT BY FED, CONGRESS
A far-reaching economic stabilization package for the coronavirus crisis failed to advance on Monday in the Senate after Democrats said it contained too little money for hospitals and not enough restrictions on a fund to help big businesses. Democrats predicted a modified version would win passage soon.
Both Democrats and Republicans say they are aware that failure to agree on the bill could have a devastating effect on states, cities and businesses, and trigger further heavy losses in US stock markets.
A lack of coordinated federal action was causing chaos for states and municipalities, and even putting them in competition with each other for medical resources, the governors of New York, New Jersey and Illinois said.
The states "are all out looking for the same thing," New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy told CNN on Monday.