Coronavirus Live Updates: As Pandemic Spreads Swiftly, China Reports Zero New Infections
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Credit…Victor Moriyama for The New York Times
As the virus spreads, the human toll grows.
China reported its first day with no new locally transmitted coronavirus infections, three months after the first case was detected. But the march of the affliction gathered pace while nations throughout the world braced for a surge of infections and, ultimately, deaths.
For the Fusco family in Freehold, N.J., the dangers of the virus and its pernicious exploitation of human connection were laid bare when Grace Fusco, 73, died Wednesday night, hours after her son and five days after her daughter. Four other family members are hospitalized, three of them in critical condition, from an infection traced to a routine family gathering.
No one is safe.
Two members of Congress tested positive and were in isolation on Thursday. While older people remain at gravest risk worldwide, a C.D.C. report found that 38 percent of those who required hospitalization in the U.S. were aged 20 to 54.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, warned that as testing becomes more widespread, people would see the numbers soar.
President Trump signed a relief package to provide sick leave, unemployment benefits and free coronavirus testing, and lawmakers were drafting an even more sweeping $1 trillion economic stabilization package.
But even as the federal government invoked wartime powers to speed the production of essential medical equipment, such as surgical masks, protective body suits, testing kits and, especially, ventilators remained in short supply.
World leaders escalated pleas to the only ones who can ultimately help buy time: everyone.
“It’s down to each and every one of us,” Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said in a televised address. “We are not doomed to helplessly watch the spread of the virus. We have a means to fight it: we must practice social distancing.”
Failure to do so could result in even more stringent lockdowns that Germany has so far avoided, she said. “We are a democracy. We don’t live by force, but by shared knowledge and cooperation.”
But, as Ms. Merkel said, even as a society in isolation, “we will show that we are there for one another.”
Senate rushes to pass relief package, and Fed moves to keep dollars flowing.
Senate Republicans racing to agree on a $1 trillion economic rescue package to prevent the country from teetering into economic collapse could have a draft ready as early as Thursday.
The majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said that his party was near a deal with the White House that would be the starting point for negotiations with Democrats.
The Trump administration’s proposal includes $500 billion for two waves of direct payments to taxpayers and an additional $500 billion in loans for businesses. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has told colleagues that she is aware of concerns about including provisions on unemployment insurance, increased Medicaid funding and further assistance to small businesses.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the economic relief plan included payments of $1,000 for American adults and $500 per child sent within three weeks. It is not clear if Americans of every income bracket will be eligible for the payments or how they will be disbursed to those who do not have bank accounts. The Trump administration has proposed sending $500 billion directly to Americans in two waves.
“What we’re really focused on is providing liquidity to American businesses and American workers,” Mr. Mnuchin said on the Fox Business Network on Thursday. “This is an unprecedented situation.”
Mr. Mnuchin insisted that the Treasury and the Federal Reserve were working in lock step and were prepared to do whatever was necessary to provide liquidity to American companies so that they can weather the crisis without laying off workers.
He said that businesses that take advantage of emergency loans would be given loan forgiveness if they cannot pay them back.
He also suggested that the federal government was open to taking equity stakes in companies.
Many hospitalized in the U.S. are younger adults.
American adults of all ages — not just those in their 70s, 80s and 90s — are being seriously sickened by the coronavirus, according to a report on nearly 2,500 cases in the United States.
The report, issued Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that — as in other countries — the oldest patients were at greatest risk of becoming seriously ill or dying. But of the 508 coronavirus patients known to have been hospitalized in the United States, 38 percent were between 20 and 54. And nearly half of the 121 sickest patients studied — those admitted to intensive care units — were adults under 65.
“I think everyone should be paying attention to this,” said Stephen S. Morse, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University. “It’s not just going to be the elderly.”
Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, appealed on Wednesday for younger people to stop socializing in groups and to take care to protect themselves and others.
“You have the potential then to spread it to someone who does have a condition that none of us knew about, and cause them to have a disastrous outcome,” Dr. Birx said.
In the C.D.C. report, 20 percent of the hospitalized patients and 12 percent of the intensive care patients were between the ages of 20 and 44, basically spanning the millennial generation.
New York governor warns that panic is outpacing the virus.
“We are battling two things,” Mr. Cuomo said on CNN. “And I am as afraid of the fear and panic as I am of the virus.”
While he said that it was necessary for the government to act with the urgency of a nation at war when it came to manufacturing critical supplies like ventilators, he said that people needed to be given better guidance.
“I spend half my day knocking down rumors that we are going to lock people in their homes,” he said, noting that New York City seemed to be at “near panic levels.”
“I am not going to imprison anyone in the state of New York in their homes,” he said. “I am not going to declare martial law in the state of New York.”
He was critical of the term “shelter in place.”
“Do you know where that came from: nuclear war,” he said. “You go into a room with no windows until you get an all clear sign.”
That was not what was called for to fight the virus, he said.
At the same time, public health officials expressed growing alarm that the coronavirus was spreading quickly in tightly knit Hasidic Jewish communities in Brooklyn, saying that they were investigating a recent spike in confirmed cases.
More than 100 people have recently tested positive for the coronavirus in Borough Park and Williamsburg, two Brooklyn neighborhoods with sizable Hasidic populations.
Across the state, the number of new infections continued to grow exponentially, something health officials said to expect across the nation as testing increases.
Of the 14,597 people to be tested so far, nearly 5,000 were tested on Tuesday, helping explain why the number of new cases jumped for 1,000 in just 24 hours to 2,382 people.
Doctors and nurses plead for masks and other equipment.
Hundreds of doctors, nurses and others are rallying on social media with the hashtag #GetMePPE, begging for public help with an acute shortage of personal protective equipment like masks, gowns and face shields at hospitals and medical offices.
“The situation is terrible, really terrible,” said Dr. Niran Al-Agba, a pediatrician in Washington State who is treating her patients at curbside. “I don’t think we were prepared.”
Someone anonymously left two boxes of masks on her doorstep, and she has been spraying them with alcohol to make them last.
“After practicing for 20 years and being a third-generation doctor, I can tell you this is new territory,” Dr. Al-Agba said. “I don’t know if we’ve ever had to go to work and fear for our lives in the same way.”
Crisis deepens rift between E.U. and Serbia.
Serbia, a nation in the heart of Europe that has long straddled the divide between east and west, has increasingly charted its own course as the coronavirus epidemic tears through the continent.
The country has long expressed a desire to join the European Union, but the crisis threatens to deepen a growing divide between Brussels and Belgrade.
“European solidarity does not exist,” President Aleksandar Vucic said this week as he announced a state of emergency in Serbia. “That was a fairy tale on paper.”
Because the European Union would not provide help or sell critical medical equipment, Mr. Vucic said that Serbia was turning to China.
China, once on front line of the coronavirus crisis, has seen a role reversal in recent days with other nations calling on the superpower for support as outbreaks worsen in Europe and across the world.
Mr. Vucic personally thanked President Xi Jinping of China for his support and noted that Chinese medical experts and equipment were expected to arrive in the country by Saturday.
Before the crisis, Mr. Vucic had faced accusations that his government was intimidating the free press and stifling opposition. Elections scheduled for late April, already being boycotted by opposition parties, are now in doubt.
Serbia has dispatched its army to take control of the country’s borders.
All citizens older than 65 in cities and older than 70 in rural areas have been banned from leaving their homes, and the government has said it might introduce fines for those who refuse to comply. The army has also taken control of country’s migrant centers and ordered to help protect hospitals.
With two members of Congress sickened, leaders face pressure to allow remote voting.
Congressional leaders are under mounting pressure to rethink their plans to bring the House of Representatives back to Washington, after two lawmakers reported testing positive for the virus.
In back-to-back statements on Wednesday, Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, Republican of Florida, and Representative Ben McAdams, Democrat of Utah, both announced that they had fallen ill after voting on the House floor early Saturday, and subsequently tested positive for the virus.
Soon after, Representative Steve Scalise, the No. 2 Republican, and Representative Drew Ferguson, his top deputy, said they would self-quarantine.
The news stoked anxiety that has been building among the 435 members of the House for days about the wisdom of gathering — in defiance of public health guidelines that warn against meetings of 10 people or more — to debate and vote in the House chamber.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that the House would return to Washington to consider additional economic relief legislation, and the Senate is in talks with the White House on a $1 trillion plan that could be approved within days.
Ms. Pelosi and other top Democrats have discussed instituting social distancing to limit the number of lawmakers on the House floor at one time, but resisted the idea of allowing members to vote remotely. News of the virus’s spread among lawmakers has fueled calls for her to change course.
“In. Person. Voting. Should. Be. Reconsidered,” Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Democrat of Florida, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “For the safety of our communities, during this emergency, we must be able to legislate from our districts.”
China reports zero local infections, a major turning point.
For the first time since the coronavirus crisis began, China on Thursday reported no new local infections for the previous day, a milestone in its costly battle with the outbreak that has since spread around the world.
Officials said 34 new coronavirus cases had been confirmed, all of them involving people who had come to China from elsewhere.
In signaling that an end to China’s epidemic might be in sight, the announcement could pave the way for officials to focus on reviving the country’s economy, which nearly ground to a halt after the government imposed travel restrictions and quarantine measures. In recent days, economic life has been resuming in fits and starts.
But China is not out of danger. Experts have said that it will need to see at least 14 consecutive days without new infections for the outbreak to be considered over. It remains to be seen whether the virus will re-emerge once daily life restarts and travel restrictions are lifted.
“It’s very clear that the actions taken in China have almost brought to an end their first wave of infections,” said Ben Cowling, a professor and head of the division of epidemiology and biostatistics at Hong Kong University’s School of Public Health. “The question is what will happen if there’s a second wave, because the kind of measures that China has implemented are not necessarily sustainable in the long term.”
To contain the outbreak, the authorities shut schools and workplaces, imposed travel restrictions, and ordered quarantines on broad swaths of the population and many visitors from abroad. Since January, more than 50 million people in the central province of Hubei, including its capital, Wuhan, where the outbreak began, have been subjected to a strict lockdown.
Queen Elizabeth heads to country home as Britain’s restrictions expand.
At 93 years old, Queen Elizabeth II has lived through the Great Depression and World War II. But the spread of the coronavirus has presented a challenge unlike any other that she or her nation have faced during her 68 years on the throne.
The queen’s age puts her squarely in the high-risk category, and the palace is moving to ensure she is isolated.
A planned visit by the emperor and empress of Japan was postponed “in the current circumstances,” Buckingham Palace said on Thursday.
The palace announced this week that, “as a sensible precaution,” several changes would be made to the queen’s schedule, and that she and her husband, Prince Philip, would move to Windsor Castle.
Initially reluctant to impose widespread restrictions on Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that schools would close beginning Friday. He has also ordered 20,000 members of the military be put on standby to assist in the days ahead.
London has been the center of the outbreak in Britain, with more than one-third of the country’s 2,626 confirmed cases. By Wednesday, at least 103 coronavirus patients had died.
Train services will also be curtailed this week, with some 40 tube stations across the city closing to limit the number of people moving around the city.
The country’s national health service, already strained, is bracing for an influx of patients. With new cases mounting daily, many have criticized Mr. Johnson for being slow to implement the stringent measures seen across much of Europe.
What does ‘social distancing’ actually mean?
Global markets shudder after Wall Street’s slump.
The European Central Bank said it would begin a new wave of bond purchases meant to counteract the “serious risks” to the eurozone and investors initially reacted with cautious optimism.
European stocks opened higher but slowly gave back those gains on Thursday, as investors appraised efforts by officials in the United States and Europe to shore up the world economy.
Elsewhere, oil futures gained, gold slipped, and the 10-year Treasury note, whose yield was below 1 percent just two days ago, was about 1.16 percent — all signs that would normally suggest rising confidence among investors.
Still, other indicators suggested that unease lingered. Asian markets had another down day, and futures markets indicated that Wall Street, which fell 5 percent on Wednesday, would open lower.
The European Central Bank will buy as much as 750 billion euros, or $820 billion, in government and corporate bonds and other assets, pumping cash into financial markets rattled by the pandemic. The bank said it would buy even more assets if necessary, signaling that it is prepared to defend the eurozone with all the weapons at its disposal.
“Extraordinary times require extraordinary action,” Christine Lagarde, the president of the European Central Bank, said early Thursday. “There are no limits to our commitment to the euro.”
Australia joins growing list of nations to ban all foreign visitors.
In an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia on Thursday barred all foreign citizens and nonresidents from entering the country, becoming the latest world leader to enact a wide-sweeping travel ban since the pandemic was declared.
Mr. Morrison said he had consulted with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand about the ban said it was “essential to take that further step in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus.”
“We have already seen a very significant reduction in the travel to Australia by noncitizens and residents,” he added, citing the fact that 80 percent of cases in the country have been linked to overseas travel.
Australia has recorded 568 cases and six deaths, a figure that reflects the country’s still-limited testing protocols, experts said.
Australian citizens and residents are still able to enter the country from abroad, but must quarantine themselves for 14 days upon returning.
Earlier this week, the island state of Tasmania issued an order that Australians from other parts of the country would have to self-isolate upon entering. Mr. Morrison also issued a rare travel notice for Australians seeking to go overseas, advising them not to travel at all anywhere in the world.
Reporting and research were contributed by Elisabetta Povoledo, Niki Kitsantonis, Aurelien Breeden, Javier C. Hernández, Alisa Dogramadzieva. Marc Santora, Megan Specia, Melissa Eddy, Katie Rogers, Lara Jakes, Ana Swanson, Nicholas Fandos, Emily Cochrane, Megan Twohey, Steve Eder and Marc Stein.