US COVID-19 total tops 300,000; European nations eye longer lockdown

Older people wearing masks
Older people wearing masks

Ronnie Pitman / Flickr cc

The United States' COVID-19 total topped 300,000 cases today, as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) late yesterday recommended using face masks in situations where it's hard to maintain physical (social) distancing measures, such as in grocery stores.

US cases make up about a fourth of the reported global total, which has climbed to 1,187,798 in 181 countries, 64,084 of them fatal. The World Health Organization (WHO) today in its latest situation report said the latest country to report its first case is Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, a Dutch Caribbean territory that is home to about 25,000 people.

CDC advises face masks especially in hard-hit areas

As anticipated, the CDC yesterday said it recommends wearing face coverings in public where other social distancing steps are hard to maintain, especially in areas experiencing significant community transmission.

Its advice about simple cloth face coverings, such as homemade ones, is aimed at slowing the spread of the virus and at helping prevent those who don't know they're sick from transmitting it to others. "Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure," the agency said.

The CDC's guidance covers cleaning, removal, and tutorials on how to make the masks. Scientific data to support the use of masks to prevent COVID-19 or virus spread is not conclusive, and CNN reported that some CDC experts felt pressure from the White House to make the recommendation on mask use.

Mayors of some hard-hit cities have already recommended wearing face masks, though health officials have warned that their use shouldn't provide a false sense of security, and that wearing them should be part of comprehensive steps that include social distancing. At yesterday's daily White House briefing, President Donald Trump addressed the new recommendation but said he didn't think he would be wearing one in the Oval Office while meeting with global leaders.

In other developments, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for three more COVID-19 tests. It also issued and EUA for a convalescent therapy trial at Johns Hopkins University.

New York ventilator progress

Also, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo today announced some progress in getting more ventilators for patients in critical care. On Twitter today, he said China's government is facilitating the donation of 1,000 ventilators, which are due to arrive at JFK International Airport today. In a separate tweet, he said Oregon is sending 140 ventilators. "On behalf of the people of NY, I thank you and rest assured that NY will repay the favor when Oregon needs it," he said.

The Trump Administration has been hesitant to deploy ventilators from the Strategic National Stockpile to some of the hard-hit states.

At a White House briefing today, Trump reiterated his claim, without evidence, that states are asking for more equipment than they need.

Yesterday, the US reported an all-time high 32,850 new cases and 1,320 additional deaths, and it appears to be on track to reach or pass those levels again today. This morning, New York state reported 10,841 new cases and 630 new deaths, raising its total cases to 113,704. Of that total, New York City has reported at least 56,280 infections, including 1,867 deaths.

Six states today reported more than 1,000 new cases. They are New Jersey (4,229), Michigan (1,481), Louisiana (2,199), Massachusetts (1,334), Illinois (1,453), and Pennsylvania (1,597).

Europe anticipates lockdown extensions

In European developments, Spain—with 5,537 more cases today—passed Italy and now has the second most cases in the world, behind the United States. Spain also reported 546 more deaths, raising its fatality count to 11,744. In a related development, Spain's prime minister today announced that its 15-day lockdown, which was announced on Mar 14, will be extended for 2 more weeks, until Apr 25, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

Italy today reported 4,805 more cases and 681 more deaths, raising its respective totals to 124,632 and 15,362. The number of patients in Italy's intensive care units dropped for the first time in the country's outbreak, declining from 4,068 yesterday to 3,994 today, the country's civil protection director Angelo Borrelli said, according to a separate AFP story. The daily rise in new cases in Italy has slowed in recent days, but health officials expect the country's lockdown will probably last at least another month.

In other European developments, France reported 4,267 more cases today and 441 more deaths in hospitals, Jerome Salomon, MD, MPH, PhD, the country's director-general of health said, according to Le Monde. So far, 2,028 deaths have occurred in nursing homes. There are now 6,838 people with COVID-19 in intensive care units, a number that is still rising, but at a slower rate. France has 90,843 total cases.

Elsewhere in Europe, the United Kingdom today reported 708 more deaths, its biggest 1-day jump, raising its fatality count to 4,313. It also reported 3,735 new cases, lifting its overall total to 41,903.

In Turkey, one of Europe's new hot spots, health officials reported 3,013 more cases, raising its total to 23,934.

South Korea enhances contact tracing

South Korea reported 94 more cases and 3 more deaths, mainly due to continuous small clusters in Seoul and Gyeongii province and a rapid rise in imported cases, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today.

It added that contact-tracing criteria will now extend to 2 days before illness onset and that smokers have now been added as a high-risk group. South Korea has 10,156 total cases.

Elsewhere in Asia:

  • In Japan, at least 118 new cases were reported today in Tokyo, 81 of them not linked to known transmission chains, Kyodo News The new cases lift the country's total past 4,000.
  • Singapore today reported 75 more cases, 6 of them imported and 40 linked to earlier cases or clusters.
  • Hong Kong reported 17 new cases, 10 of them with a travel history.
  • China today reported 19 new cases, 18 imported and 1 local from Wuhan in Hubei province. It also reported 64 new asymptomatic cases, 26 of them imported.

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