US COVID-19 cases top 500,000; India extends lockdown

The number of COVID-19 cases in the United States passed 500,000 today, and deaths topped 20,000, while on the international front, India's president extended the country's lockdown and health officials urged Belarus to take new steps to curb its growing outbreak.

As the pandemic upends Easter celebrations and rituals in other religions, at least six US governors, plus New Zealand's prime minister, have declared the Easter bunny an essential worker.

The number of deaths in the United States is now higher than Italy's total. At the global level, the total reached 1,767,855 cases today from 185 countries, with 108,281 deaths reported, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

US state and federal updates

New York, still the nation's biggest hot spot, reported 783 more deaths today, up slightly from 777 reported yesterday. With about 8,100 new cases today, the state's total is nearly 180,500, bigger than the number for Spain, the country with the world's second highest number of cases.

Los Angeles County yesterday extended its stay-at-home order through May 15, and health officials said that although there are signs that the rise in cases has flattened, lifting restrictions too soon could reverse the progress, Los Angeles Fox 11 reported.

In Florida, most of the state's cases are located in the southern region near Miami, but a nursing home in the northern rural area has been the setting for a COVID-19 cluster that has sickened 51 people so far, 30 of them staff members, the Miami Herald reported yesterday. The city, Live Oak, is located east of Tallahassee and has a population of about 7,000.

Arizona, which is experiencing a steady rise in cases, will receive 100 ventilators from the federal Strategic National Stockpile, Governor Doug Ducey announced on Twitter yesterday.

In other US developments:

  • President Trump said yesterday at the White House coronavirus task force briefing that on Apr 14 he will announce an advisory committee on reopening the economy.
  • The chairs of the National Governors Association called on Congress to allocate at least an additional $500 billion to help states keep critical services going despite budget shortfalls.
  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) yesterday announced that it has started recruiting adult participants for a serology study to provide a clearer picture of the number of mild, undetected cases. The study will enroll up to 10,000 volunteers, who will have a virtual clinic visit, complete a health assessment, and have blood drawn at the NIH Bethesda campus or perform at-home blood sampling.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine yesterday sent out a stakeholder letter raising concerns about the visibility of the antiparasitic drug ivermectin, following the release of a preprint in vitro study. It said it is worried about consumers who might self-medicate by taking ivermectin products meant for animals and about a potential decreased supply of the drug for animals.

India extends lockdown

India's president today announced that a lockdown slated to end on Apr 14 will be extended, but so far, no ending date has been set, the BBC reported. The movement restrictions have stranded some migrant workers without jobs, and social distancing has been difficult in crowded households.

COVID-19 activity is increasing in India, with 8,446 cases reported so far, including 846 today, with 288 deaths.

Belarus urged to strengthen steps; steady activity in many European hot spots

Following a recent mission to Belarus, an expert from the World Health Organization (WHO) urged the country to take new measures to curb the spread of the virus, Reuters reported. The country's president has downplayed the need for social distancing and other strategies to limit the spread, and Belarus has continued to allow professional soccer games to take place.

Dr Patrick O'Connor, the WHO official who led the mission, said at a briefing that the virus is spreading in Minsk and in other parts of the country and that community transmission is occurring and is concerning. Belarus has 2,226 cases, 23 of them fatal.

Elsewhere in Europe, three hard-hit countries—Spain, Italy, and France—all reported well over 4,000 new cases today, and the United Kingdom and Turkey reported more than 5,000 new cases.

Singapore and Japan battle more community spread

In Asia, Singapore reported 191 new cases, part of an ongoing spike in cases, much of it linked to large clusters at foreign worker dormitories, the health ministry said today. Of the latest cases, 72 were linked to known clusters or other patients, and investigations are still underway into links of the other 119.

In Japan, Tokyo reported a record high number cases for the fourth day in a row, and of 143 new cases, 92 had no clear link to other cases, Kyodo News reported. Tokyo and six prefectures are under a state of emergency.

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