Global COVID-19 cases top 700,000; Trump extends plan to slow virus

Drive-through COVID-19 testing
Drive-through COVID-19 testing

Mandy Foster, US Indo-Pacific Command / Flickr cc

The global COVID-19 total easily passed 700,000 cases today, just 1 day after passing the 600,000-case mark, fueled by steep rises in Europe and the United States, where President Donald Trump said today that social (physical) distancing guidelines will be extended through the end of April.

In other developments, countries such as Russia took new steps to curb the first wave of pandemic activity, while others, such as South Korea, ordered new measures to prevent a second wave. The global total has now reached 718,685 cases, with the US total at 139,675, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

Trump extends social distancing plan

The United States reported about 20,000 cases and 520 deaths yesterday and appears to be on track to equal or exceed that number today.

On CNN this morning, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the United States could see 100,000 to 200,000 deaths. The nation's number of COVID-19 deaths have doubled over the past 2 days.

At a briefing today, Trump announced that the federal social distancing guide will be extended to Apr 30. The administration's initial plan was released on Mar 16 and detailed a 15-day plan to slow the spread of the virus

He said officials will release an updated plan on Mar 31, according to CNN.

The President originally said he hoped the country was ready to resume work by Easter (Apr 12), but today he said he hopes that the United States will be on its road to recovery by Jun 1.

Last night, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urged residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to avoid nonessential domestic travel for 14 days due to extensive COVID-19 transmission. Its advisory doesn't apply to critical infrastructure workers, including trucking, public health, financial services, and food supply.

The advisory followed President Trump's comments yesterday about a possible quarantine for those hot spots, though it's not clear if it would be enforceable.

New York nears 60,000 cases

New York so far today has reported 6,120 more cases and 82 more deaths for a total of 59,513 cases, 965 of them fatal. New Jersey, the second worst-hit state, reported 2,262 more cases, for a total of 13,383, followed by California with 169 more cases for a total of 5,718. Three states today surpassed the early hot spot of Washington state: Michigan, Massachusetts, and Illinois.

Michigan's hot spot is the Detroit area, where hospitals are overrun and at least 39 police officers have been sickened, 2 of them fatally, the Detroit Free Press reported today. Trump yesterday approved a disaster declaration for the state.

In Illinois, of 4,596 cases, most are from Chicago and Cook County. Chicago's McCormick Place is being converted into a 3,000-bed COVID-19 treatment center, the Chicago Tribune reported. The Cook County Sheriff's Office has so far reported 89 infections in inmates and 12 in staff.

In other developments, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday and today issued three emergency use authorizations (EAUs) related to personal protective equipment. One is for the Battelle Decontamination System, which uses concentrated vapor phase hydrogen peroxide for decontaminating N95 or N95-equivalent respirators. It also reissued EUAs for different kinds of respirators.

Also, to prevent food shortages, the FDA temporarily relaxed certain nutrition labeling rules to give groups such as food manufacturers and restaurants more flexibility to sell packaged food to consumers or businesses.

Europe's hot spot totals climb

Spain again reported its highest number of deaths (838), but the number of daily new cases declined from 8,189 to 6,549, the country's El Mundo newspaper reported today. Overall, Spain has reported 78,797 cases, 6,528 of them fatal—the second-highest fatality count in the world, after Italy's.

Madrid is one of the hardest-hit areas, accounting for a little less than half of the deaths in Spain. A health official said six communities are at their intensive care unit capacity and three others are almost at their limits.

Elsewhere, Italy today reported 5,217 more cases, lifting its overall total to 97,689. Also, with 756 more deaths today, the nation now has 10,779 fatalities.

Several other countries in Europe continue to report thousands of new cases each day, including Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. Activity is accelerating in other parts of the continent, such as Russia, where Moscow's mayor today issued a stay-at-home order starting tomorrow affecting 12.7 million people, Bloomberg News reported. The city has recorded 1,014 cases, two thirds of the country's total.

Developments in Iran, Asia

Elsewhere, Iran, still the Middle East most affected nation, is now reporting 38,309 cases, with 123 more deaths that lift the country's fatality count to 2,640, Al Jazeera reported.

In Asia, South Korea today reported 105 new cases today, down from 146 new infections yesterday, for a total of 9,583 cases. Due to a continuing rise in imported cases, the country today announced that travelers from Europe and the United States must self-quarantine for 14 days.

Hong Kong today reported 59 more cases, 43 of them with a travel history, for a total of 642 cases. Singapore reported 42, 24 of them imported, for a total of 844. And China today reported 45 more cases, 44 imported and 1 local case in Henan province.

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