Coronavirus Live Updates: Economic Picture Darkens as Detected Infections Approach One Million
Desperate measures employed to slow virus as new infections surge and economic outlook darkens.
As global coronavirus numbers approached one million detected infections and 50,000 deaths, the measures taken have yet to slow the pace of the pathogen’s spread in most countries.
But the economic and social consequences of closing down global business grew by the day.
Whole sectors of the economy have been battered, and millions of people have lost their jobs. There is no precedent for the current fiscal challenge, and economic forecasts increasingly pointed to a deeper and longer lasting slump than previously imagined.
The threat to public health is also growing more acute.
From Florida, which joined other states telling people to stay at home, to Panama, where men and women were told to go out in public on alternating days, governments increased restrictions on the movement of people.
The United States leads the world in total cases, and an increasingly somber sounding President Trump said that he was considering steps once thought unimaginable, like banning some domestic flights.
“I am looking where flights are going into hot spots,” Mr. Trump said Wednesday evening. “Closing up every single flight on every single airline, that’s a very, very, very rough decision. But we are thinking about hot spots where you go from spot to spot, both hot. And we’ll let you know fairly soon.”
The hottest spot in America remained the New York region.
Nearly 2,400 people have died in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — half the national total. More than 1,300 of those deaths were in New York City.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said that 12,000 Covid-19 patients hospitalized across New York State and more than 3,000 in intensive care, but that the health care system, while stretched, had not yet reached capacity.
H added, however, that he expected the state to reach that moment in seven to 21 days.
With supplies dwindling, there might not be enough ventilators or other critical equipment, leaving doctors in New York to wrestle with the kind of agonizing choices confronting health care workers daily in Italy and Spain.
The U.S. government has nearly emptied its emergency stockpile of protective medical supplies like masks, gowns and gloves, a senior official said. Some states receiving desperately needed ventilators discovered that the machines did not work.
Another jaw-dropping number is expected in the United States on Thursday when the government reports the number of new unemployment claims filed across the country last week.
Several estimates put the figure at roughly five million. That would come on top of the 3.3 million claims reported last week — a total that could be revised upward when the Labor Department issues its report at 8:30 a.m. Eastern.
The speed and scale of the job losses is without precedent. Until the coronavirus outbreak caused widespread workplace shutdowns and layoffs, the worst week for initial unemployment filings was 695,000 in 1982.
The economic damage from the pandemic was initially concentrated in tourism, hospitality and related industries. But now the pain is spreading. The Institute for Supply Management said on Wednesday that the manufacturing sector, which had recently begun to recover from last year’s trade war, was contracting again. Data from the employment site ZipRecruiter shows a steep drop in job postings even in industries that are usually insulated from recessions, like education and health care.
New Yorkers have watched in helpless fear as the coronavirus, with dizzying speed and ferocity, truly took hold of the city in recent days. With almost 1,400 dead, many have already lost someone in their circle — a co-worker, an old friend from high school, the parent of a child’s classmate. The parish priest, the elderly neighbor upstairs. A mother, a father.
The story is told in the numbers: There were 47,349 confirmed cases of coronavirus infections in New York City as of Wednesday. But the reality of its reach is far worse — one study of cases in China suggested that up to 10 times the people who have tested positive may be infected, which would make the true number in the city close to half a million. And the apex is believed to still be weeks away.
The rising numbers have conversely shrunk the private worlds of some 8 million individual people. It is as if the microscopic enemy, once an abstract nuisance to many, something happening someplace else, seemed to be closing in, its arrival announced with the now-constant peal of the ambulance siren.
If the pandemic can be thought of as playing out in weeks — the week the restaurants closed, the week schools closed, stores closed — this has been the week its true grip was felt throughout the city.
“It is the great equalizer,” said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday at a briefing. “I don’t care how smart, how rich, how powerful you think you are. I don’t care how young, how old.”
As Britons planned to once again take to their balconies and gardens on Thursday to salute the National Health Service, the news that only 2,000 medical workers had been tested for the virus drew widespread outrage, underscoring the country’s struggles to ramp up its capabilities even as the death toll mounts.
Britain reported 563 deaths on Wednesday, the highest daily tally to date, raising the national toll to 2,352.
He said the country would be “massively increasing testing.”
“This is how we will unlock the coronavirus puzzle,” he said. “This is how we will defeat it in the end.”
Many have compared the limited response in Britain to Germany, where testing is widespread and the death rate is relatively low.
Chris Hopson, the chief executive of N.H.S. Providers, which represents hospitals in the National Health Service, told the BBC’s Radio 4 program Today that just 2,000 front-line health care workers had been tested for the virus and that Britain had the capacity to process only about 13,000 tests per day.
He cited shortages in swabs and the reagent needed to process the tests, and said in a statement posted to Twitter that testing capacity was “so constrained” that hospitals were asked to only allocate 15 percent of tests to staff.
The shortages have been a chronic global challenge as governments and health care providers scramble to obtain diagnostic kits, with major disparities in testing capacity. Much of Western Europe has found itself short of kits, and governors across the United States pleaded with the federal government for help in bolstering their own testing capacity.
A few weeks ago, a 911 call for “respiratory distress” would have sent emergency medical technicians — E.M.T.s — rushing into the building to examine the person and take vitals. Now with coronavirus infections sweeping through the region, the emergency medical workers of Paterson, a poor, industrial city in the penumbra of pandemic-stricken New York, are working in a new, upside-down reality: Don’t go in a home, don’t touch the patient, and don’t take anyone to the hospital, unless absolutely necessary.
Day and night, ambulances crisscross the streets of Paterson, the eerie silence of a once-raucous city shredded by siren shrieks so pervasive it sounds as if the city is under attack.
Which, in a sense, it is.
With colossal public housing projects and families crammed into sagging, multiunit homes, Paterson is a densely populated city of nearly 148,000. These days, the city’s ambulance call volume, per capita, is as great as New York City’s, asserted Brian J. McDermott, the exhausted chief of the Fire Department.
There were 576 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection in Paterson as of late Wednesday afternoon, a number constantly rising. The emergency department at St. Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson is being hammered with patients; the 650-bed hospital, currently handling about 100 Covid-19 cases, is searching for outside locations for more beds. Despite the efforts of the E.M.T.s to keep moderately ill people at home, nearly 80 percent of ambulance calls for suspected coronavirus have been serious enough to require transportation to the hospital.
The Paterson Fire Department allowed New York Times journalists to accompany a 12-hour shift of E.M.T. crews outfitted specifically to respond to potential Covid-19 cases. The grueling day offered a glimpse into the chaotic, risk-filled lives of emergency workers who are reaching directly into the jaws of the pandemic.
Think of it as the world’s strictest ladies’ night.
The authorities in Panama, alarmed by widespread violations of its quarantine rules, have announced new restrictions, dependent on gender. Under rules that will be in place for the first 15 days of April, men and women will have separate days that they are permitted to leave their homes.
Women will be allowed outdoors on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Men will have Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Everyone is required to stay home on Sunday. The new rules will help the authorities keep tighter control over who is on the streets.
“The large number of people circulating outside their homes, despite the mandatory national quarantine, has led the national government to take more severe measures to protect the health of the population,” a government statement said.
The time of day one can go out was already limited by personal identification or passport number. If the last number on your ID is 7, you can go out between 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. For the number 8, the window is 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. The final window is 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. for the number 6. People over 60 have a special time slot between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Between March 19 and March 31, 5,339 people were arrested after violating the quarantine regulations, the Ministry of Public Security said.
As of Wednesday, Panama reported 1,317 confirmed coronavirus cases and 32 deaths.
Americans bought 1.9 million guns in March, according to a Times analysis of federal data. It was the second-busiest month ever for gun sales, trailing only January 2013, just after President Barack Obama’s re-election and the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
With some people fearful that the pandemic could lead to civil unrest, gun sales have been skyrocketing. In the past, fear of gun-buying restrictions has been a main driver of spikes in gun sales, far surpassing the effects of mass shootings and terrorist attacks. But last month was different. As they prepare for an uncertain future, Americans have been crowding grocery stores to stock up on household essentials like canned beans and toilet paper. A similar worry appears to be behind gun sales.
In recent weeks, lines have been snaking out of gun stores throughout the country. In many states, estimated sales doubled in March compared with February. In Utah, they nearly tripled. And in Michigan, which has become a hot spot for virus cases, sales more than tripled.
The run on firearms has raised public health concerns and prompted local officials to debate whether gun stores should be temporarily closed. Advocates for stricter safety measures argue that the surge in purchases could pose a safety threat if buyers aren’t trained properly, new guns aren’t stored safely and background checks aren’t completed.
But after lobbying from the firearm industry, the Trump administration said this week that the stores qualified as essential businesses and should stay open during the lockdown alongside pharmacies, gas stations and grocery stores.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Wednesday night called for moving the Democratic National Convention from mid-July to August, making him the most prominent member of his party to say the convention must be rescheduled because of the coronavirus outbreak.
“I doubt whether the Democratic convention is going to be able to be held in mid-July, early July,” Mr. Biden told Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show.” “I think it’s going to have to move into August.”
Mr. Fallon had not asked Mr. Biden about the convention’s timing. The former vice president was responding to a question about how the virus would affect the election.
Katie Peters, a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Convention Committee, said after Mr. Biden’s remarks that she expected the committee to reveal more details about changes to convention plans by the end of this week.
How to tweak your home to serve you better now
Your home is currently serving as a work space, living space and possibly a school and playground. It wasn’t designed for all these disparate tasks, but there are things you can do to make your home more comfortable for you and your family in these times.
Just weeks ago, Prime Minister Boris Johnson seemed genuinely shocked at the suggestion that the police should enforce a coronavirus lockdown in Britain.
But that was before he introduced the most stringent restrictions in recent memory and instructed the authorities to enforce them.
Some police officers have done so with such gusto that a ferocious debate is underway about the balance between collective responsibility and individual liberty.
Few doubt the need for extraordinary measures to prevent the spread of an illness that has already claimed at least 1,789 lives in Britain and infected thousands more, including Mr. Johnson himself.
In one instance, a drone zoomed in on six parked cars and a truck and flashed a stern message: “These vehicles should not be here.”
Next to be shamed was a couple walking a dog on a lonely path. Captured on a film, released by the Derbyshire police, their stroll was judged “not essential” and therefore in breach of British social distancing rules.
Small stores have been instructed not to sell chocolate Easter eggs because they are “nonessential” items.
Jonathan Sumption, a former Supreme Court judge, offered praise on Monday for the work of many police forces but also expressed alarm at some overly zealous enforcement.
“In some parts of the country, the police have been trying to stop people from doing things like traveling to take exercise in the open country, which are not contrary to the regulations, simply because ministers have said they would prefer us not to,” he told the BBC. “The police have no power to enforce ministers’ preferences, only legal regulations.”
More than 1,200 U.S. military personnel and their family members are affected by coronavirus, leaving the Defense Department virtually at war with itself over two competing instincts: protecting troops from the virus and continuing its decades-old mission of patrolling the globe and engaging in combat, if ordered to do so.
The Navy is thus far refusing to completely evacuate an aircraft carrier where 93 service members have been confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper has put himself on the side of business as usual in maintaining readiness while also saying that force protection is a top priority. President Trump, for his part, threatened a familiar foe, tweeting on Wednesday that Iran would “pay a very heavy price” if its proxies attacked American troops or assets in Iraq. Other Defense Department officials continued to insist that the aircraft carrier, the Theodore Roosevelt, remain ready to carry out its missions.
The commander of the Roosevelt, Capt. Brett E. Crozier, pointed out in a strongly worded letter that “we are not at war.” That statement raised questions from the Pacific to the Pentagon of what was so important about the aircraft carrier’s presence off the coast of Guam that the Defense Department could not evacuate the ship and do a deep cleaning, as suggested by Captain Crozier.
U.S. warships typically spend months at sea monitoring the activities of adversaries. The ships assigned to the Pacific Fleet patrol the South China Sea, the East China Sea and areas in between, sometimes undertaking so-called freedom of navigation operations that bring them close to disputed islands in the area. The goal of these voyages is to drive home to China that the United States does not recognize Beijing’s claims of ownership.
American warships in the region are also keeping an eye on the nuclear and missile threat from North Korea. And they sit ready to deploy to the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf if tensions — with, say, Iran — flare up.
But for the moment, the virus has proved far more damaging than any recent encounters with traditional adversaries and exposed a vulnerability of a force often referred to as the world’s policeman. For all the focus on the battles in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and the power conflict with China and Russia, none has come close to crippling an American aircraft carrier in days.
The Pentagon said on Wednesday it would send 540 additional troops to the Southwest border to counter any potential flow of migrants who are infected with the coronavirus.
Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson of the military’s Northern Command told reporters on Wednesday that the deployment would be happening “very soon.”
Reporting was contributed by Megan Specia, Marc Santora, Damien Cave, Austin Ramzy, Michael Wilson, Helene Cooper, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Eric Schmitt, Jan Hoffman, Keith Collins, David Yaffe-Bellany, Andrew Das, Maya Salam and Ana Swenson.
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