Spain emerges from strict COVID-19 distancing as pandemic issues keep US on edge

Bicyclist in Madrid
Bicyclist in Madrid

FaceMePLS / Flickr cc

In the latest pandemic developments, people in Spain were allowed out of their home for exercise today after a 7-week lockdown, and in the United States, details emerged about COVID-19 spread in a New York City nursing home that killed nearly 100 people and may be the nation's largest such outbreak.

Today the global total rose to 3,419,184 reported cases, which includes 242,296 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard. The 1,126,519 US cases make up almost a third of the global total, and 66,051 Americans have died from their infections.

Spain starts easing distancing steps

Spain, which has the world's second most cases in the world, saw its outbreak quickly escalate after cases soared in Italy, and with cases and deaths declining, officials are now relaxing some parts of the strict distancing measures that kept people indoors for all but essential trips.

At a media briefing today, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the country is now seeing the rewards from long weeks of sacrifice, Reuters reported. But he warned that the virus will continue to spread until there is a vaccine, and that people will need to take personal responsibility to curb the spread.

He announced that, starting May 4, people will have to wear facemasks while riding on public transportation. Earlier this week, Spain announced a four-step reopening plan and said it hopes to return to a "new normal" by the end of June.

Cases rise in Russia, Mexico

Meanwhile, COVID-19 activity is escalating in other parts of the world, with Russia today reporting another record daily number of cases, 9,623.

The country's hot spot, Moscow, has reported about one fourth of the country's cases, and the city's mayor said he may cut the number of travel permits in the city to keep more people at home in what has amounted to a partial lockdown, Reuters reported.

In other international developments:

  • Mexico is experiencing a steady rise in cases, with 1,425 reported yesterday, its biggest single-day jump, Mexico News Daily At a press briefing yesterday, the country's deputy health minister said he expected cases to peak on about May 6 if people continue to self-quarantine.

  • Malaysian police have arrested hundreds of undocumented migrant workers in Kuala Lumpur to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the BBC Human rights groups raised concerns about potential outbreaks inside detention camps where the workers were taken.

  • The United Kingdom has hit is daily 100,000-test goal 2 days in a row, health secretary Matt Hancock said today on Twitter.

  • China today reported one more case, which was imported, according to the daily update from the National Health Commission. It also reported 20 new asymptomatic cases, all of them local.

COVID-19 takes heavy toll on NYC nursing home

News of a deadly nursing home outbreak in New York City comes as the state, one of the country's main hot spots, is seeing cases, hospitalizations, and deaths decline. Isabella Geriatric Center, a 705-bed facility in Manhattan, reported 98 deaths, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

Forty-six residents tested positive, and 52 were suspected of having the virus. Some died at the nursing home, while others died at hospitals. As deaths overwhelmed the center, officials used a refrigerated truck to store the bodies until overstretched funeral homes could take them.

A spokeswoman for the facility said that, as with other nursing homes in New York City, limited access to testing hampered the ability to isolate sick and asymptomatically infected people. The AP said it's difficult to say if the Isabella outbreak is the nation's largest, because of differences in tallying nursing home deaths.

In other New York outbreak developments, Governor Andrew Cuomo said today that, to get a better handle on how people are becoming infected, hospital workers will gather more demographic information from patients, CNN reported. And at a media briefing today and on Twitter, he said the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will disinfect each subway car every day, as well as all subway stations and commuter train cars, which he said is an unprecedented step.

"The riding public deserves this. Essential workers deserve this. Transit workers deserve this," he said.

He also released more preliminary results from a statewide antibody survey, which shows that 12.3% of the state's population was exposed to the COVID-19 virus, based on a sample size of 15,000. Percentages were higher for New York City and varied by neighborhood, ranging from 27.5% in the Bronx to 17.3% in Manhattan.

CDC launches genomic tracking consortium

In other US developments:

  • The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) yesterday announced the launch of a genomics consortium to better understand how SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading in communities and across the nation. In a press release, the agency said the network of labs, institutions, and businesses will share real-time consistent data to public health teams, which will help them better understand outbreaks and break transmission chains. It will also be useful for guiding other public health efforts and understanding any changes in the virus. The effort will also speed the release of sequences to public databases.

  • The White House has blocked Tony Fauci, MD, the director of the National Institute of Allery and Infectious Diseases, from testifying at a House appropriations subcommittee hearing to examine the nation's COVID-19 response next week, the Washington Post It said it would be counterproductive for Fauci to take part, given that he is part of the response.

  • The leaders of the House and Senate have jointly declined the Trump Administration's offer to deploy rapid COVID-19 testing for lawmakers on Capitol Hill, according to the Washington Post. Some lawmakers had raised concerns about lack for testing for when they reconvene on May 4, but in a letter today, Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell said testing resources should be prioritized to frontline health facilities.

  • New Mexico's governor yesterday declared a state of emergency for the city of Gallup to curb the spread of COVID-19, CNN All roads in an out of the city have been closed, and there's a curfew between 5 pm and 8 am on businesses. Citizens have been told to leave their homes only for emergencies and essentials for health and safety. The city's mayor has authorized the riot act to enact the restrictions. The city is in McKinley County, which accounts for more than 30% of New Mexico's total infections and has reported more than 200 cases over the past 2 days.

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