U.S. Coronavirus Cases Jump; FDA Approves Rapid Test

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. had surged to nearly 20,000 as of Saturday, almost 10 times their level a week ago, as President Trump said he was considering a major disaster declaration for California and other states.

President Trump already approved such a declaration for New York, unlocking federal funding and assistance for the strained state. New York accounts for half the infections in the country.

To stem the spread of the outbreak, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday ordered all nonessential businesses to close and urged residents to stay indoors to the greatest extent possible.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy issued a similar order on Saturday to residents in his state, requiring them to stay at home until further notice and closing all nonessential retail businesses. There are exceptions, such as for people going to work, seeking medical help or obtaining essential goods or services.

Three New York City-area airports were affected on Saturday by the rising toll of the disease. The Federal Aviation Administration temporarily suspended takeoffs there because of concerns about a coronavirus contagion at a regional air-traffic control facility. The halt was lifted a half-hour later.

Meanwhile, Trump administration officials and congressional leaders were still working on a financial response of more than $2 trillion to address the outbreak and the economic fallout. The funding would include a nearly $1.5 trillion spending bill under consideration by U.S. Senators, as well as aid from the Federal Reserve.

“I think the Democrats and the Republicans are going to come up with a package that’s going to be really something very special,” Mr. Trump said of the proposed package at a White House press conference. “It’s going to help people.”

Globally, the number of infected hit 289,948 and deaths reached nearly 12,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, as more governments resorted to drastic measures to contain the spread. Italy again recorded the highest one-day death toll for any country.

Total cases are at 19,624 in the U.S., while deaths quadrupled to 260 from a week ago, according to Johns Hopkins University. New York state has 11,675, including 7,530 in New York City, state and city officials said Saturday.

More than 195,000 people in the U.S. have been tested for the virus, Vice President Michael Pence said at the White House press conference.

Officials acknowledged at the press conference that hospitals face a shortage of protective equipment but were unable to specify a timeline for when more would arrive. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said equipment would arrive “sooner than weeks.”

Mr. Pence said the Department of Health and Human Services had ordered hundreds of millions of masks but implored any companies or individuals who have N-95 masks to take them to their local hospitals.

Mr. Trump again signaled reluctance to use the Defense Protection Act, a Korean War-era law, to compel companies to make more needed medical supplies like ventilators and masks. He said many companies already are producing supplies on their own, adding the private sector is operating in the “sixth gear.”

The pace of results of tests could quicken. The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday approved a rapid-testing kit for the disease. Cepheid, a California company, was awarded the approval for the test, which provides results within 45 minutes.

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The surge in infections has strained hospitals and medical resources in New York City and elsewhere. General Motors said it is lending logistics, purchasing and manufacturing support to Ventec Life Systems to help the medical-devices company ramp up production of ventilators.

Mr. Cuomo said at a press conference Saturday that existing facilities would be converted to house ill patients by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“We’re requesting four field hospitals at 250 capacity each. That would give us 1,000 field hospital beds,” he said, adding that the Javits Center, a massive convention center in New York City, would be a possible location.

A million N95 masks will be sent to New York City as a shortage of protective equipment for medical professionals dwindles, he said. “It won’t get us through the crisis, but it will make a significant contribution to New York City’s mask issue,” Cuomo said.

He added that the state has identified 6,000 new ventilators available for purchase.

The governor also said the Federal Emergency Management Agency will assist in state emergency funding to aid in recovery efforts.

In an effort to conserve protective medical equipment and tests, due to shortages of both, New York City health officials issued a directive on Friday to stop testing outpatients for coronavirus if their symptoms were mild or didn’t require hospitalization.

“Outpatient testing must not be encouraged, promoted or advertised,” the advisory, sent by the commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, reads. The City of Los Angeles issued a similar directive to its doctors on Thursday.

In Washington state, an area hit hard by the virus, Gov. Jay Inslee sent a 74-page letter to Mr. Trump on Friday requesting he declare a federal major disaster in the state. Mr. Inslee said in the letter that tens of thousands of people have found themselves unemployed.

Around the world, the number of deaths from the disease continued to mount.

On Saturday, 793 people were reported to have died in Italy, bringing the country’s death total to 4,825. The number was a new highest one-day death toll recorded in any country. The total confirmed coronavirus infections in Italy rose to 53,578, an increase of 14% from the previous day.

In Spain, the number of people who have died from the virus rose by almost a third in the past day to 1,326, according to data released by the Spanish Health Ministry on Saturday. The total number of people infected jumped by 4,946 to bring the total to almost 25,000, making Spain the country with the third-most infections, behind only China and Italy.

New cases and deaths continued to arise in Asia, where many countries had appeared to have contained the outbreak in recent weeks. Singapore reported its first fatalities Saturday morning, a 75-year-old woman and a 64-year-old man. Both had a history of heart disease, local health officials said.

Several countries and territories in Asia are now seeing a second wave of infections from citizens and travelers who were recently in the U.S., Europe and parts of Asia where infection rates are climbing.

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Hong Kong stepped up efforts to enforce quarantine and social-distancing measures on Saturday, after a jump in imported cases over the past two weeks took the total number of infections to 294. Those who flout self-isolation rules will be prosecuted immediately, and could face fines or imprisonment. “The imported cases have made the situation in Hong Kong more severe than ever,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at a press conference.

Civil servants in the semiautonomous Chinese city will work from home again starting Monday, after public services returned to normal in early March upon initial success in containing the spread. The city will postpone university entrance exams originally scheduled for next week.

The number of confirmed cases in Australia topped 1,000 on Saturday after a jump in New South Wales state, where authorities identified more cruises where passengers contracted Covid-19 aboard.

The jump in infections prompted authorities to close Sydney’s Bondi Beach, after beachgoers ignored rules limiting outdoor gatherings to 500 people. Separately, Crown Resorts Ltd.’s Melbourne casino lost its exemption from Australia’s rules limiting indoor gatherings to 100 people.

China reported no new local infections for the third straight day, though it said there were 41 new imported cases. The number of people still fighting the disease fell by 590 to about 6,000, according to the National Health Commission. Nearly 72,000 patients have recovered, representing 89% of the total infected people in the country, the commission said.

In Japan, where authorities are scrambling to proceed with the Olympic Games, infections topped 1,000 after the country registered the biggest daily increase in a week.

The number of deaths in Iran rose by 123 over the past 24 hours to 1,556 on Saturday, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said. Iran logged 966 new infections, bringing the total number of cases to 20,610.

In an attempt to avoid crowds in the streets as Iran celebrates the Persian New Year, President Hassan Rouhani said shopping malls would be closed from Saturday, and the government was looking into ways to provide discounts on online shopping.

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab warned Saturday that his country is facing “great danger” as the number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases rose by 40% in 24 hours. Cases surged from 167 to 230, with at least four deaths so far.

Mr. Diab said he would call on the military to set up checkpoints and carry out patrols to ensure that people stay inside in a bid to contain spread of the virus. Lebanon closed its land, air and sea borders on Wednesday.

Syria took its first substantive steps to combat the global pandemic by announcing the closure of government offices, markets and commercial activities, according to state news. Syria is one of the few countries that has yet to report any cases of the virus, but it is considered especially vulnerable because of its war-battered medical system and its close military ties with Iran.

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