New York notes dizzying COVID-19 numbers as Trump mulls lifting restrictions soon

Ventilator tubing
Ventilator tubing

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Today New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the COVID-19 pandemic case count is doubling every 3 days in his state, as the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the United States could become the next epicenter of the novel coronavirus, given that the country accounted for 40% of new cases recorded globally over the past 24 hours.

As of this afternoon, according to the New York Times case tracker, the United States reported at least 52,215 cases, including 675 deaths. New York reported about half of those cases—25,665, including almost 15,000 in New York City.

Trump weighs lifting restrictions by Easter

Meanwhile, today in the Rose Garden, President Donald Trump told viewers during a Fox News virtual town hall that he wants the country "opened up and raring to go by Easter Sunday," which this year falls on Apr 12.

The announcement comes one day after Trump changed his tone on coronavirus response and cautioned the "cure would be worse than the disease" in reference to the social distancing and shelter-in-place mandates in several states that have shuttered non-essential businesses and removed millions of American children from school. Thirteen states have shelter-in-place orders.

"Our time is up on Monday or Tuesday of next week," the president said, referring to the "15 days to slow the spread" campaign rolled out by the White House last week. "We will assess at that time and give it more time if we need a little more time. We have to open this country up."

Vice President Mike Pence, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD, and White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx, MD, joined the president during the town hall. Both Adams and Birx said the president was listening to his scientific advisors, including Anthony Fauci, MD, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and using their expertise when making policy decisions.

When asked if he and Fauci were at odds with one another, Trump said he had a good relationship with Fauci, who has worked under six presidential administrations. Fauci was not at yesterday's or today's briefing.

"Tony is extraordinary," Trump said. "Today he is working on other things."

Cuomo asks for ventilators

Cuomo, tweeted earlier today that the federal government needs to provide 40,000 ventilators to New York immediately.

"The new projections suggest that the number of hospital beds needed could be as high as 140,000," Cuomo said during his daily briefing. "We haven't flattened the curve, and the curve is actually increasing."

Pence today during the town hall said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) shipped 2,000 ventilators from the national stockpile to New York state earlier today, with another shipment of 2,000 ventilators expected tomorrow. Cuomo said he needs 30,000 ventilators to be prepared for the influx in cases over the next 14 to 21 days.

Though New York has by far the most US cases, other hot spots have been worrying experts in recent days, according to CNN: Louisiana, which reported no cases 10 days ago, now has at least 1,388 cases and 46 deaths. Michigan's cases also rose, from 65 cases about a week ago to 1,328 confirmed this afternoon, including 15 deaths. New Jersey now has reported 3,675 positive cases, and 44 deaths, as well.

In Louisiana, Governor John Bel Edwards said he was seeking a major disaster declaration for his state by FEMA. Washington state, which was the first US ho tspot, now has 2,221 cases, including 110 deaths.

Auto maker starting to make ventilators

After days of speculation, Automotive News today reported that Ford will partner with General Electric (GE) Healthcare and 3M to make ventilators, respirators, and face shields. Ford said it would be able to make up to 1,000 respirators per month, and plans to make up to 100,000 face shields per week.

Ford said it would partner with GE Healthcare to a produce hundreds of thousands of ventilators between now and June.

FDA approves plasma treatment, new vaccine candidates

Today the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said individual patients may be eligible to receive convalescent plasma as part of exploratory treatment for COVID-19 infections, under single-patient emergency Investigational New Drug Applications.

"This process allows the use of an investigational drug for the treatment of an individual patient by a licensed physician upon FDA authorization. This does not include the use of COVID-19 convalescent plasma for the prevention of infection," the FDA said.

Finally today, biopharmaceutical companies announced new partnerships to develop potential COVID-19 vaccines: Dynavax and Clover Pharmaceuticals and Ology Bioservices and Innovio.

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