Coronavirus Live Updates: New U.S. Hot Spots Emerge; Trump Predicts ‘a Lot of Death’
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Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times
Veering from grim warnings to baseless assurances in a single news conference, President Trump on Saturday predicted a surging death toll in what he said may be “the toughest week” of the coronavirus pandemic before also dispensing unproven medical advice. He suggested again that Americans might be able to congregate for Easter services next Sunday.
“There will be a lot of death,” he said at the White House, where he and other officials depicted some parts of the United States as climbing toward the peaks of their crises, while warning that new hot spots were emerging in Pennsylvania, Colorado and Washington, D.C.
At one point Mr. Trump, who initially set Easter Sunday as a target date for reopening the country, said that the holiday would be a particularly sad day for people prohibited from gathering in large numbers. He said he would like to consider the possibility of allowing church gatherings outdoors with “great separation.”
“It’s something we should talk about,” he added, though he did not announce any changes to existing federal recommendations. “But somebody did say that, ‘Well, then you’re sort of opening it up to that little, you know, do we want to take a chance on doing that when we’ve been doing so well?’”
About 8,500 people have died from the coronavirus in the United States, and the White House has said that the virus could claim at least 100,000 lives in the country.
“The next two weeks are extraordinarily important,” said Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator. “This is the moment to not be going to the grocery store, not going to the pharmacy, but doing everything you can to keep your family and your friends safe, and that means everybody doing the six-feet distancing, washing their hands.”
Dr. Birx also said that Detroit, New York and Louisiana — the current hot spots — were likely to reach a peak in the next six to seven days, citing predictions by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Mr. Trump also appeared to suggest on Saturday that the federal government was placing large amounts of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine in its Strategic National Stockpile, speaking optimistically about its potential to treat coronavirus patients and saying he would consider taking it himself if needed.
But only anecdotal reports and one small clinical trial have shown any benefits, and the F.D.A. has not approved the drug for coronavirus treatments. Also, a spike in interest in the drug has now left patients who rely on it for chronic diseases wondering whether they will be able to fill their prescriptions.
Coronavirus Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak
The virus has infected more than 1.1 million people in at least 175 countries.
With U.S. officials warning that the coronavirus pandemic will intensify in the coming days, several governors, including John Bel Edwards of Louisiana and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, are scheduled to appear on Sunday morning talk shows as they vie for more support and protective equipment.
Mr. Edwards — whose state has been hit hard by the outbreak, with about 12,500 reported cases and over 400 deaths as of Sunday morning — will appear on “State of the Union” on CNN at 9 a.m. Eastern time; Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois will also be a guest. His state had more than 10,000 reported cases as of Sunday morning, with about 250 deaths.
Mr. Whitmer will be a guest on “Fox News Sunday.” Detroit has been one of the hot spots for the virus, and the state over all has over 14,000 reported cases, the highest in the nation after New York and New Jersey. All three governors are Democrats.
Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, another Democrat, and Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, a Republican, will appear on “Meet the Press” on NBC, along with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy. Mr. Hutchinson has been criticized as one of the governors who has avoided declaring a stay-at-home order in his state.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is scheduled to appear on “State of the Union” and “This Week” on ABC, and the Democratic presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden Jr. is due to appear on “This Week.”
As some nations scramble to find protective masks, ventilators and gowns to fight the coronavirus, one Nordic country is confronting the pandemic with a large network of medical supplies: Finland.
The stockpile, considered one of Europe’s best and built up over years, has cast a spotlight on Finland’s preparedness and exposed the vulnerability of other nations that lack their own.
Finland’s system has been in place since the 1950s, the authorities said. Norway, Sweden and Denmark also amassed large stockpiles of medical and military equipment, fuel and food during the Cold War era. Later, most of them all but abandoned those stockpiles. But Finland did not.
Its history, including fighting off a Soviet invasion in 1939, has taught the nation of 5.5 million to prepare for the worst, said Tomi Lounema, the chief executive of Finland’s National Emergency Supply Agency.
“Finland is the prepper nation of the Nordics, always ready for a major catastrophe or a World War III,” said Magnus Hakenstad, a scholar at the Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies.
When the coronavirus hit, Finland’s government tapped into its supply of medical equipment for the first time since World War II. Two weeks ago, as the country’s coronavirus cases ticked up — by Sunday, the country had recorded more than 1,880 cases and 25 deaths — the health ministry ordered that stored masks be sent to hospitals around the country.
“The masks are old, but they are still functioning,” Mr. Lounema said this weekend. As for how many masks are being stored and where, he said that information was classified.
By Sunday, the global coronavirus cases had increased to more than 1.1 million, with over 64,000 deaths.
In Spain, the authorities reported another drop in the death toll: 674 died overnight — the lowest in 10 days — for a total of about 12,400, second in the world to Italy. With more than 130,000 reported cases, however, Spain had the highest number in Europe as of Sunday morning.
Also Sunday, South Sudan confirmed its first case of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, according to the country’s vice president, Riek Machar. A 29-year-old woman who arrived in the country from Ethiopia on Feb. 28 was being treated in isolation.
In Iran, the death toll rose to 3,603, a health ministry spokesman told state television on Sunday. The spokesman, Kianush Jahanpur, said 151 people had succumbed in the past 24 hours. The nation, the Middle Eastern country worst-hit by the epidemic, now has 58,226 infections, he said.
In Jerusalem, Franciscan friars wearing surgical masks and gloves made house calls on Palm Sunday, delivering olive branches to Christians who are self-isolating as a precaution against the coronavirus. Jerusalem’s churches, like Muslim and Jewish places of worship, are closed to the public.
In the Vatican, Pope Francis celebrated Palm Sunday Mass without the tens of thousands of Romans, tourists and pilgrims who usually throng St. Peter’s Square. Looking pensive and sounding subdued, Francis led the first of several solemn Holy Week ceremonies that will shut out rank-and-file faithful from attending, as Italy’s lockdown measures forbid public gatherings. He said the pandemic should focus people’s attention on what is most important: using one’s life to serve others.
Twelve doctors at her hospital and the chief executive were sickened with the coronavirus. A colleague had died. Patients as young as 19 were being placed on ventilators.
But Michele Acito, the director of nursing at Holy Name Medical Center — in the hardest-hit town in New Jersey’s hardest-hit county — felt that she was holding up.
The pandemic that has crippled New York City is now enveloping New Jersey’s densely packed cities and suburbs. The state’s governor said on Friday that New Jersey was about a week behind New York, where the surging coronavirus has brought increasing anxiety among medical workers.
As of Sunday morning, at least 847 people in New Jersey had died of the virus, and 34,124 had been infected. New Jersey has the nation’s second-highest number of cases after New York, where about 115,000 people have been infected and more than 3,500 have died.
At Holy Name in Teaneck, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, two doctors are among the 150 patients being treated for the virus. Two patients died within 72 hours.
One of them was Edna Acito, Ms. Acito’s mother-in-law. She had turned 89 on Thursday. A team of medical workers sang “Happy Birthday” from the hallway. The older woman’s nine children expressed their love through an iPad as Ms. Acito held her hand. She died early Saturday.
“You compartmentalize,” Ms. Acito, 57, said. “You go home. You shower it off. But when you have a family member here, you can’t scrub that off.”
Even as many Chinese-Americans have weathered racist remarks and some physical attacks over the coronavirus, small groups throughout New York and New Jersey are uniting to fight the pandemic in the United States.
Using mostly WeChat, they are creating vast networks and rallying their contacts in the United States and China to procure supplies for doctors and nurses.
Some equipment has come from China, from companies like Dasheng in Shanghai. And while some companies require bulk shipments, networking via multiple groups on WeChat has helped with that issue, said Tingzhou Wu, a spokeswoman for a group in Millburn, N.J.
“We’re saying, ‘Let’s chat. Do you guys want to buy this together?’” she said.
The Long Island Chinese American Association in New York has delivered more than 10,000 masks to three hospitals and nearly 8,000 surgical masks to the Visiting Nursing Service of New York. The Coalition of Asian-Americans in Private Practice has raised close to $250,000 since January and expects to get 80,000 N95 masks to New York hospitals this month.
A group of Chinese-American professors at Rutgers University in New Jersey raised $12,000 and collected more than 4,000 masks to support a hospital in New Brunswick. A church in Parsippany donated thousands of masks to hospitals and even to local gas stations, where attendants are legally required to pump customers’ gas.
“It’s been a community consensus,” said Maria Wu, another spokeswoman for the Millburn association. “We need to stand up and do something to protect the people who are protecting us.”
Especially since some of those people are dealing with discrimination on the front lines.
The police in Britain are investigating fires at cellphone masts in three locations as possible arson, as unfounded rumors spread online claiming links between 5G cellphone networks and the coronavirus.
The government has dismissed the rumors, as cellphone masts in Liverpool, Birmingham and Belfast were set alight last week, according to local news media reports.
“There is absolutely no credible evidence of a link between 5G and coronavirus,” the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport wrote on Twitter on Friday.
On Sunday, Queen Elizabeth II is expected to address this “time of disruption” in a televised speech and thank health care employees and other key workers, according to a statement from Buckingham Palace. The address, from Windsor Castle, was filmed by a single cameraman wearing protective equipment, the BBC reported.
Britain had nearly 42,000 confirmed cases and over 4,300 reported coronavirus-linked deaths as of Sunday morning.
In Scotland, 14 residents at a care home in Glasgow died within one week, a spokeswoman said. All of them had underlying health conditions, and none were tested for the coronavirus, as tests in the country are conducted only upon hospital admission.
But an association with the virus is possible, as two workers at the facility, Burlington Court Care Home, had tested positive and were being treated in separate hospitals.
As India’s reported coronavirus cases rose past 3,000 and the authorities fanned out to find more infected people who had attended a packed religious gathering in the capital, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a nine-minute lights-out vigil for Sunday night.
Mr. Modi has asked India’s 1.3 billion people, who are under the world’s largest lockdown, to turn off the electricity and “light a lamp, brighten everyone else’s path.” He presented it as an enormous solidarity exercise to “bring our nation closer and strengthen the battle against Covid-19.”
While many Indian TV channels and corporations cheered the prime minister on, opposition politicians dismissed his call as a gimmick.
“There is so much more the nation was expecting,” said Shashi Tharoor, a top politician from the Indian National Congress, the leading opposition party.
Mr. Modi “has not dealt with the lack of personal protective equipment, of kits for rapid testing; even doctors are complaining that they cannot do their work,” Mr. Tharoor said. “All this was about was symbolism,” he added. “It was like preparing a giant photo op for the nation. Photo ops will not solve the problems created by the coronavirus.”
Many health experts say they believe that India has far more cases than reported. The percentage of people being tested is much lower than in many other countries.
The authorities have zeroed in on an Islamic seminary in Delhi that held a large gathering in March where many attendees then dispersed nationwide and later became sick from the virus. More than 1,000 cases across India — nearly a third of the official total — have been traced to that one gathering, health officials said on Sunday.
A drug recovery meeting hosted online. A police officer wearing a face mask. A pastor without a congregation. A funeral director trying to bury the dead.
The merciless threat slipped into the country, emptying its streets, shuttering its stores, wrecking its economy and forcing its people to retreat indoors.
In this pandemic nation, once crowded cities now feel abandoned, as if everyone suddenly moved out. There is no rush hour. “Closed” signs hang from the front doors of business after business. But there are new connections, too.
For many, the coronavirus pandemic involves the most dramatic kind of fight — for life, for food, for money. For others, it can feel absurdly trifling as they stay inside — a fight against boredom, binge eating, isolation.
If it weren’t the age of social distancing, people would stop them on the street to take selfies. Instead, they get adoring messages on social media. Others appear on television daily.
The new celebrities emerging across Europe as the coronavirus burns a deadly path through the continent are not actors or singers or politicians. Instead, they are epidemiologists and virologists who have become household names after spending most of their lives in virtual anonymity.
While nurses and doctors treat patients on the front lines, epidemiologists and virologists who have spent careers in lecture halls and laboratories have become the most trusted sources of information in an era of deep uncertainty, diverging policy and raging disinformation.
After a long period of popular backlash against experts and expertise, which underpinned a sweep of political change and set off culture wars in much of the developed world, societies besieged by coronavirus isolation and desperate for facts are turning to these experts for answers.
“During a crisis, heroes come to the forefront because many of our basic human needs are threatened, including our need for certainty, meaning and purpose, self-esteem, and sense of belonging with others,” said Elaine Kinsella, a psychology professor at the University of Limerick in Ireland who has researched the role of heroes in society.
“Heroes help to fulfill, at least in part, some of these basic human needs,” she added.
The scientist-heroes emerging from the coronavirus crisis rarely have the obvious charisma of political leaders, but they show deep expertise and, sometimes, compassion.
In Italy, one of the hardest-hit nations in the world, Dr. Massimo Galli, the director the infectious diseases department at Luigi Sacco University Hospital in Milan, swapped his lab coat for a suit and accepted that he “would be overexposed in the media” in order to set things straight, he told one talk show.
In Greece, which has so far been spared a major outbreak, a wide audience tunes in when Prof. Sotirios Tsiodras addresses the nation every day at 6 p.m.
His delivery is flat, and he relies heavily on his notes as he updates the country on the latest figures of those confirmed sick, hospitalized or deceased. Occasionally, he offers practical advice, like a solution of four teaspoons of bleach per liter of water can be sprayed on surfaces for disinfection.
Reporting was contributed by Jeffrey Gettleman, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Michael Crowley, Denise Grady, Sheri Fink, Azi Paybarah, Alexandra Stevenson, Tiffany May, Rick Rojas, Christina Anderson, Henrik Pryser Libell, Raphael Minder, Tammy La Gorce and Iliana Magra.