US braces for tough COVID-19 week; deaths drop in parts of Europe

field hospital
field hospital

Military members prepare patient care units at a field hospital at New York City's Javits Center., National Guard/Flickr cc

Top US health officials today warned that the nation is in for a tough week ahead with more COVID-19 cases and deaths, as activity in some European countries—including some of world's main hot spots—showed more signs of slowing.

As of this afternoon, the US total is at 331,151 cases, including about 9,500 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard. Globally, the total passed 1,270,000 from 183 countries, including 69,082 deaths. The World Health Organization (WHO) said today in its latest daily situation report that the Falkland Islands, home to about 3,400 people, reported its first cases.

US faces tough week; CDC launches surveillance report

On CBS's Face the Nation today, Tony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said the country is struggling to get COVID-19 activity under control and warned that the next week would be bad, because the outbreak is not at its peak yet.

He said he hoped to see some flattening of the curve in a week to 9 days. At a White House briefing yesterday, President Donald Trump also warned of a tough week ahead, as did Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD, in an interview with Fox News Sunday.

So far, eight states haven't implemented stay-at-home orders: Utah, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Carolina.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently launched a new weekly COVID-19 surveillance report called COVIDview, similar to its weekly FluView report. The first week shows that outpatient and emergency department visits for COVID-like symptoms are elevated compared to levels normally seen for this time of year, though there is little flu virus circulation.

Hospitalization rates are similar to what the CDC sees at the start of an annual flu season. The percentage of deaths from pneumonia and flu is 8.2%, above the epidemic threshold of 7.2%. Pneumonia deaths have increased sharply since the end of February, as flu deaths declined last week, which could reflect COVID-19 activity.

In another CDC development, its scientists have started serology studies to gauge the number of Americans who have had COVID-19, Stat reported yesterday. The efforts will start with current hot spots, then expand nationally this summer, with another part geared toward examining healthcare workers infections.

New York reports drop in deaths; virus sickens zoo tiger

In New York, the nation's main hot spot, health officials reported 7,256 more cases, but at a media briefing today, Governor Andrew Cuomo said the number of deaths have been dropping over the past few days, though it's too early to say how significant the trend is. So far, New York state has reported 122,031 cases, 4,159 of them fatal. New York City has 60,850 cases, including 2,254 deaths.

In another development, a tiger at a zoo in New York has tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said today. Media reports said the location is the Bronx Zoo.

The tiger was tested after several lions and tigers at the zoo showed signs of respiratory illness. Health officials believe the cats got sick after they were exposed to a zoo employee who was actively shedding the virus. The zoo has been closed since the middle of March, and the first tiger began showing symptoms on Mar 27.

All of the animals are expected to recover, and no signs of infection have been noted in the zoo's other animals. The finding marks the first known COVID-19 infection in a tiger. Hong Kong has reported infections in two pet dogs and one pet cat.

New Jersey, the second most affected state, reported 3,482 new cases today, raising its total to 37,505, including 917 deaths. Governor Phil Murphy said on Twitter today that after multiple talks with the White House, the state has secured 500 more ventilators, which he says is New Jersey's top need right now.

With many Christian denominations observing Palm Sunday today, at least one church in a state with a stay-at-home order—Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana—defied rules and held services, Reuters reported. Some states with stay-at-home orders, such as Florida, have exempted church services, but many congregations have opted for online alternatives.

European hot spot deaths decline

In Spain, the country with the second highest case total, deaths from COVID-19 declined for a third consecutive day, Bloomberg News reported. The ministry reported 674 more deaths, raising its fatality count to 12,418.

Italy reported 525 more deaths today, its lowest daily total in more than 2 weeks, Bloomberg News said in a separate report.

Deaths also declined in the United Kingdom, which reported 621 more today, down from 708 yesterday. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to the hospital today for persistent symptoms, 10 days after testing positive, the BBC reported. Before Johnson's hospitalization, Queen Elizabeth addressed the country in a prerecorded message, thanking key workers and the public and vowing that the UK will succeed in its fight against the virus.

In Turkey, however, COVID-19 activity is quickly accelerating, with the country now reporting 27,069 cases and 574 deaths, according to the health ministry. Of the total, 3,134 were reported today, along with 73 deaths.

Africa cases rise; Asian developments

In Africa, cases continue to rise steadily, with 8,377 cases reported so far, the WHO's African regional office said today on Twitter. It said Algeria and Cameroon have reported sharp increases in the past 24 hours.

In Japan, an outbreak in Tokyo grew by 143 cases, 92 with no clear links to other cases, the most in one day, Kyodo News reported today. The country's capital has reported 1,033 cases overall. Though the city is the country's worst-hit area, five other prefectures have stay-at-home orders.

In other Asian developments:

  • South Korea today reported 81 new cases, 40 of them imported, according to Korea Centers for Disease Control.
  • China today reported 30 new cases, 25 imported and five local cases from Guangdong province, the National Health Commission said in its daily report. The country also reported 47 new asymptomatic cases, 16 of them imported.
  • Singapore reported 120 new cases, 4 imported and 116 local. Of the local cases, 50 are linked to existing clusters, according to the health ministry.
  • Hong Kong today reported 28 more cases, 25 of them with a travel history, the Center for Health Protection said in an

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