What you need to know today about the virus outbreak

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The governors of California and New York are moving to rapidly expand their health care work forces, as the death toll from COVID-19 in New York surged past 1,200 while hospitalizations in California doubled in the last four days.

The escalating statistics tied to the spread of coronavirus underscored the health risk for millions of Americans, regardless of whether they call home the Midwest farm belt, the rural South or a sprawling coastal metropolis. The top infectious-disease expert in the United States is warning that smaller U.S. cities are about to witness the rapid acceleration in coronavirus cases that New York has documented.

Economic fallout from the pandemic was taking a toll. Macy’s said the majority of its 125,000 employees will be furloughed this week as it transitions to an “absolute minimum workforce” needed to maintain basic operations.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said he was waiving certain professional licensing and certification requirements to staff at least an additional 50,000 hospital beds to handle an expected surge in cases.

“If you’re a nursing school student, a medical school student, we need you,” Newsom said. “If you’ve just retired in the last few years, we need you.”

In New York, most of the deaths have been in New York City, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the statewide death toll had shot up by 253 in a single day, and April is expected to be worse.

“That’s a lot of loss, that’s a lot of pain, that’s a lot of tears, that’s a lot of grief that people all across this state are feeling,” the governor said at a briefing in Manhattan.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that New Orleans and Detroit are showing signs that “they’re going to take off,” and other, smaller cities are “percolating.”

Fauci’s warning comes a day after President Donald Trump braced the nation for a death toll that could exceed 100,000 people. Trump extended restrictive social distancing guidelines through April 30, bowing to public health experts who presented him with even more dire projections for the expanding coronavirus pandemic.

Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said Monday that hospitals will be allowed to repurpose dorms, hotels and even gyms to care for patients who don’t have the virus. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Washington state projects a shortage of more than 60,000 hospital beds nationwide as the peak of outbreak approaches in mid-April.

Here are some of AP’s top stories Monday on the world’s coronavirus pandemic. Follow APNews.com/VirusOutbreak for updates through the day and APNews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak for stories explaining some of its complexities.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:

– Macy’s, Kohl’s and Gap Inc. all said they will stop paying tens of thousands of employees who were thrown out of work when the chains temporarily closed their stores and sales collapsed as a result of the pandemic. Macy’s said the majority of its 125,000 employees will be furloughed this week and that it is transitioning to an “absolute minimum workforce” needed to maintain basic operations.

-President Donald Trump on Monday defended his decision to extend restrictive social distancing guidelines through the end of April, while bracing the nation for a coronavirus death toll that could exceed 100,000.

– New York’s governor issued an urgent appeal for medical volunteers Monday amid a surging number of deaths, as health officials warned that the crisis unfolding in New York City is just a preview of what other communities across the U.S. could soon face.

-California is enlisting retired doctors and medical and nursing students to help treat an anticipated surge of coronavirus patients, the governor announced Monday. The California Health Corps effort comes as the nation’s most populous state anticipates hospitals becoming overwhelmed with patients and while it is preparing stadiums and convention centers to handle a crush of cases.

– As U.S. hospitals brace for a surge in patients who need breathing machines and other resources that could be in critically short supply, health care workers are dusting off playbooks they’ve never before had to implement on how to fairly ration limited resources during an emergency.

– State and local leaders in the U.S. are struggling to navigate inconsistent federal guidance and fierce political tribalism that is complicating their responses to the coronavirus outbreak.

– An exclusive data analysis from AP finds that more than a third of counties across the U.S. still haven’t reported a positive test result for infection across what are predominantly poor, rural areas.

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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

Here are the symptoms of the virus compared with the common flu.

One of the best ways to prevent spread of the virus is washing your hands with soap and water. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends first washing with warm or cold water and then lathering soap for 20 seconds to get it on the backs of hands, between fingers and under fingernails before rinsing off.

You should wash your phone, too. Here’s how.

TRACKING THE VIRUS: Drill down and zoom in at the individual county level, and you can access numbers that will show you the situation where you are, and where loved ones or people you’re worried about live.

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ONE NUMBER:

$20: Benchmark U.S. crude fell more than 6% and dropped below $20 per barrel at one point for the first time since early 2002. Oil started the year above $60, and prices have plunged on expectations that a weakened global economy will burn less fuel. The world is awash in oil, meanwhile, as producers continue to pull more of it out of the ground.

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IN OTHER NEWS:

LIFE UNDERWATER: Submariners stealthily cruising the ocean deeps, purposefully shielded from above-water worries to focus on their top-secret missions of nuclear deterrence, may be among the last pockets of people anywhere who are still blissfully unaware of how the pandemic is turning life upside down.

TELL ME HOW TO WASH: Elmo, Rooster and Cookie Monster are doing their part to help keep kids safe during the pandemic. The beloved Sesame Street characters are featured in some of four new animated public service spots reminding young fans to take care while doing such things as washing hands and sneezing.

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a worker wearing a protective face mask irons clothes at a re-opened shopping mall in in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province, Monday, March 30, 2020. Shopkeepers in the city at the center of China’s virus outbreak were reopening Monday but customers were scarce after authorities lifted more of the anti-virus controls that kept tens of millions of people at home for two months. (Shen Bohan/Xinhua via AP)
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