World COVID-19 updates, 5 p.m., March 24: NY plans for 40,000 in intensive care

“Coronavirus party” leads to infection

The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 400,000 people and killed over 18,000. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or those with existing health problems. More than 103,000 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.

Black Press Media posted this Associated Press report at 5 p.m., Tuesday, March 24.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

  • Los Angeles County reports what may be first confirmed U.S. death of child from virus.
  • Kentucky governor says new case stems from `coronavirus’ party.
  • Los Angeles County sheriff orders gun shops to stop selling during pandemic.

New York expects 40,000 people will need to be in intensive care

NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo sounded his most dire warning yet about the coronavirus pandemic Tuesday, saying the infection rate in New York is accelerating and the state could be as close as two weeks away from a crisis that sees 40,000 people in intensive care.

Such a surge would overwhelm hospitals, which now have just 3,000 intensive care unit beds statewide.

The rate of new infections, Cuomo said, is doubling about every three days. While officials once projected the peak in New York would come in early May, they now say it could come in two to three weeks.

“We are not slowing it. And it is accelerating on its own,” he said during a briefing at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. “One of the forecasters said to me we were looking at a freight train coming across the country. We’re now looking at a bullet train.”

New York officials have been racing to essentially double their hospital capacity to up to 110,000 beds. Cuomo now said there could be a peak need of 140,000 beds.

There were more than 25,000 positive cases in New York state and at least 210 deaths, according to state figures. Most of the cases and deaths have been in New York City, an emerging worldwide hotspot in the outbreak.

Anyone who visited New York City should self-quarantine

WASHINGTON — The woman in charge of the U.S. response to the coronavirus says everyone leaving the New York metro area should self-quarantine for 14 days.

Deborah Birx said at a White House briefing that people leaving the hardest hit area of the United States might not be sick, but could have been exposed to the virus. She advises people heading for Long Island, or Florida, North Carolina or other states to stay home for two weeks.

Birx says about 56% of the cases in the United States are coming out of the New York metro area.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is advising President Donald Trump on the pandemic, says about one per 1,000 people leaving New York are infected. He says that’s eight to 10 times more than in other areas.

First confirmed death of a child from coronavirus

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County has reported what may be the first confirmed U.S. death of a child from coronavirus.

Health officials say the youth lived in the Mojave Desert city of Lancaster located north of Los Angeles. County public health director Barbara Ferrer says it’s a “devastating reminder that COVID-19 infects people of all ages.”

She did not provide any details about the child.

A report last week by the Centers for Disease Control found no coronavirus deaths in the U.S. among people 19 and under. That age group accounted for less than 3% of all hospitalizations.

Figures from Johns Hopkins University show California cases have topped 2,500, with at least 50 deaths.

“Coronavirus party” slammed by Kentucky governor

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear says the state has surpassed 160 coronavirus cases as a few dozen new cases were diagnosed in the past day.

He says one of the new cases stemmed from a “coronavirus party.” The governor didn’t give any details about the event but he quickly denounced it.

Beshear says, “Anyone who goes to something like this may think that they are indestructible, but it’s someone else’s loved one that they are going to hurt.”

LA County gun shops ordered to stop selling weapons

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles County sheriff says gun shops are not essential businesses and ordered them to stop selling to the public during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva says the stay-at-home order covering the county’s 10 million residents, was only meant to keep open businesses that support police departments and other security companies. Instead, he says gun shops used what he calls a “loophole” to stay open and many attracted long lines of customers.

Villanueva says the stay-at-home order is not a reason for “everyone to be panic gun-buying or rushing to stores, which is now what we’re seeing.”

He says gun shops have complied and deputies have not had to issue any citations.

Second Amendment advocates are upset and say plan to challenge stay-at-home order in court.

Diplomats asked to hunt for medical supplies

WASHINGTON — State Department officials say U.S. diplomats abroad have been told to reach out to foreign governments and private companies to find out if they have excess medical supplies they would be willing to sell to the United States to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

The officials say the State Department has created a tracking system to match countries and firms with the equipment they may have with needs identified by U.S. states. The officials stress the effort is not an appeal for donations and that equipment meeting those needs would be purchased.

They say it is an attempt to find countries and companies with excess supplies that could help meet the soaring domestic U.S. demand for personal protective equipment, ventilators and other items. The officials couldn’t say whether any countries or companies have yet responded positively.

Libya reports first case

CAIRO — Libya’s National Center for Disease Control has announced the first confirmed case of coronavirus in the war-torn country.

The appearance of the first case in Libya has stoked fears that an outbreak could overwhelm an already strained health care system. Libya is divided between rival governments and embroiled in a long-running civil war.

There were no immediate details about the patient, who was tested at a Tripoli laboratory.

As the coronavirus sweeps across the Middle East, Libya had been bracing for the virus to arrive, despite dire shortages in medical supplies and protective gear. Public health officials have been warning that the coronavirus could be devastating in countries, such as Syria, Yemen and Libya, where years of conflict have gutted health care systems and ravaged key infrastructure.

Russia asks people with mild symptoms to get treated at home

MOSCOW — Authorities in Moscow have changed course and are now saying coronavirus patients with relatively light symptoms should receive treatment at home.

Previously, Russian health care officials had hospitalized all those who tested positive for the coronavirus along with those suspected of having it.

Russia has reported 495 cases and no deaths, but Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin says the number of tests was insufficient and the situation could be far more serious. The government said 163,000 coronavirus tests have been done so far.

The new directive from Moscow’s health care department is intended to ease the pressure on hospitals that will have to deal with the gravely ill. It said that patients over 65 and those who are pregnant or have chronic illnesses should always be hospitalized.

Oil and gas industry ask for less enforcement of air and water pollution laws

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency says it’s reviewing a request from the oil and gas industry to ease enforcement on hazardous air and water pollution during the coronavirus pandemic.

The proposal is drawing objections from public health and environmental advocates. A former Obama-era EPA enforcement official, Cynthia Giles, says the request amounts to seeking a nationwide pass for the industry on almost all environmental rules.

The American Petroleum Institute made the request in a letter to President Donald Trump last week, and to the EPA on Monday. The oil and gas trade group is citing potential staffing issues during the outbreak, saying worker shortages could make compliance with a range of regulations difficult, such as monitoring, reporting and immediately fixing hazardous air emissions.

Bethany Aronhalt, a spokeswoman for the American Petroleum Institute, compares the request to businesses asking for flexibility on tax deadlines during the outbreak. Aronhalt says, “In no way would this jeopardize safety, health or the environment.”

Giles says EPA policy explicitly prohibits the agency from promising waiving of enforcement of environmental and public health laws. She called the trade group’s request “alarming” and “wildly overbroad.”

U.S. federal lawsuit filed seeking class-action status to sue Chinese government

LAS VEGAS — Five Las Vegas businesses have filed a federal lawsuit through an attorney seeking class-action status for 32 million small businesses to collect what he says could be trillions of dollars in damages from the Chinese government for lost income and profits due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Attorney Robert Eglet alleges China was reckless, negligent and covered up information about the respiratory illness instead of sharing information that might have prevented its spread.

Chinese Embassy officials in the U.S. didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Before the lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, a China foreign ministry spokesman said people should stop making “wrongful remarks that stigmatize China.”

Eglet said that instead of sharing information with the world about a new virus for which there was no vaccine or cure, the government of China intimidated doctors, scientists, journalists and lawyers while allowing worldwide spread of COVID-19.

Eglet says the lawsuit could take many years to resolve.

9,000 Americans returned home after being stranded abroad

WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department says it has brought home over 9,000 Americans stranded in 28 countries after the global coronavirus all but closed down many national borders and severely curtailed international flights.

That’s up from a total of over 5,000 from 17 countries a day earlier.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the number jumped by roughly 4,000 in a 24-hour period. Several evacuation flights carrying hundreds of Americans home, many of them back from Latin America, have departed since Monday. Some 13,500 Americans have sought assistance from the State Department in returning home.

Spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus says the State Department “has never before undertaken an evacuation operation of such geographic breadth, scale, and complexity.” She said U.S. embassies and consulates around the world are continuing to try to arrange flights for Americans.

The department has come under criticism from some stranded Americans and lawmakers for not doing enough to help.

Migrant tests positive while in U.S. immigration detention centre

WASHINGTON — A 31-year-old from Mexico has become the first person in immigration detention in the U.S. to test positive for COVID-19.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says the unidentified migrant was being held at Bergen County Jail in Hackensack, New Jersey, when he tested positive. The agency says the migrant is quarantined and is receiving care at an undisclosed location.

The agency says it is suspending the intake of new migrants at the jail.

ICE previously said a member of the medical staff at the Elizabeth Detention Center in New Jersey tested positive for the virus.

Itally, thousands of new cases reported daily

ROME — With Italy on an uphill course to contain the world’s second-largest outbreak of the coronavirus, Premier Giuseppe Conte has announced much stiffer fines for violators of the national lock-down restrictions.

At a Cabinet meeting Tuesday, the government set fines for violators from 400 to 3,000 euros ($440-$3,300). Initially, fines topped out at 206 euros ($227).

Italy is in its third week of lock down, under a government decree that expires on April 3. Earlier, an Italian health official, Franco Locatelli, said a decision on extending the order would be made based on how Italy’s outbreak of COVID-19 is developing. Italy’s outbreak hasn’t peaked, and thousands of new cases are being reported daily.

Gas station workers, fearing they are at risk for contagion, have announced strikes later this week. Conte says the government will try to alleviate their concerns by allowing for staggered opening hours at stations.

U.N. Leader calls for wartime stimulus package

UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is urging leaders of the world’s 20 major industrialized nations to adopt a “wartime” plan including a stimulus package “in the trillions of dollars.” The plan would be for businesses, workers and households in developing countries trying to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Guterres says in a letter to the Group of 20 leaders that they account for 85% of the world’s gross domestic product and have “a direct interest and critical role to play in helping developing countries cope with the crisis.”

The U.N. chief says, “Anything short of this commitment would lead to a pandemic of apocalyptic proportions affecting us all.”

The secretary-general also urged “a clear repudiation of protectionism.”

France: Scientific council says home confinement should last 6 weeks

PARIS — France’s Scientific Council has recommended that France’s home confinement, which began one week ago, should last at least six weeks in total.

The recommendation was voiced to French President Emmanuel Macron during a special expert meeting on Tuesday.

Macron has not yet made any official announcements on any extension of the confinement, which was initially for two weeks and open to being lengthened.

It comes as France’s Health Minister Olivier Veran says the country would “multiply” testing on patients suspected to have the virus.

France is the European country with the third-highest virus-related deaths, after Italy and Spain.

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