Twenty-four hours after New York and the entire U.S. saw the deadliest day yet from the coronavirus, government and public health officials warned not to let up on social distancing even as the measures were working to prevent new cases.
Meanwhile, the head of the World Health Organization brushed off criticism from President Donald Trump, who accused the group of being “China centric” and misstepping in its response to the pandemic.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said social distancing was “flattening the curve,” but he stressed Wednesday: “If we stop what we are doing you will see that curve change. That curve is purely a function of what we do day in and day out.”
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said California and Washington’s curves have been “persistently flat and that’s very encouraging.” But also she warned against ending social distancing practices too early.
“If people start going out again and socially interacting, we could see a very acute second wave very early,” Birx said in an interview with the “TODAY” show.
Meanwhile, U.S. stocks ticked up Wednesday as Trump said a second round of cash payments to Americans as part of another recovery package was “absolutely under serious consideration.” Disney’s chairman suggested temperature checks may be implemented at its parks when they reopen.
The U.S. approached 420,000 confirmed cases and surpassed 14,000 deaths Wednesday, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. Worldwide, there are nearly 1.5 million confirmed cases and more than 87,000 deaths.
Our live blog is being updated throughout the day. Refresh for the latest news, and get updates in your inbox with The Daily Briefing. More headlines:
• The ventilator shortage is forcing hospitals to take a “warp speed” DIY approach. Some are retrofitting machines to meet the need: “It’s really a Scotch tape and baling wire operation.”
• In non-coronavirus news: Bernie Sanders drops out of presidential race
• Black people are overwhelmingly dying from coronavirus. Nobody knows why.
• By mid-February, some of the nation’s top health care officials were privately expressing alarm over evidence that the coronavirus was spreading from patients without symptoms, USA TODAY finds.
• Why can’t we find toilet paper yet? Getting to the bottom of the supply shortfall goes beyond just panic buying and hoarding.
• The CDC recommends humidifiers to easy symptoms. These are the best ones.
Tuesday was nation’s deadliest coronavirus day yet
Nearly 2,000 people died Tuesday because of complications from COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A USA TODAY tracker of new coronavirus-related deaths in the United States by day showed at least 1,939 deaths Tuesday. The grim number came as New York City’s death count surpassed the 9/11 death toll.
Cuomo to order NY flags at half-staff after deaths jump by almost 800
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said there was good news and bad news in New York – and “the bad news is actually terrible.”
Hospitalization rates dropped, and Cuomo said the state was succeeding in flattening the curve of new cases, but 779 people died Tuesday, bringing the state’s total death toll from the virus to 6,268. Cuomo said the disparity between the lower hospitalizations and increased deaths was a “lagging indicator” and that the trend will continue.
The governor encouraged New Yorkers to continue social distancing to protect vulnerable people and health care and other essential workers. “We are by no means out of the woods,” Cuomo said. “If we behave differently, you will see those numbers change.”
Cuomo also pledged to do more testing within minority communities as New York, among other states, began releasing data on how the virus has disproportionately affected black and Latino Americans.
Most COVID-19 patients put on ventilators will not survive
While governors, mayors and hospital officials conduct much-publicized life-and-death struggles to acquire ventilators, for most COVID-19 patients the oxygen-providing apparatus will merely serve as a bridge from life to death.
Dennis Carroll, who led the U.S. Agency for International Development’s infectious disease unit for more than a decade, told USA TODAY perhaps one-third of COVID-19 patients on ventilators survive.
But for many, ventilators represent their last chance.
“If you were one of the one-third, I suspect you’d be very appreciative that that capability was available,” Carroll said.
Some patients may be on a ventilator for only a few hours or days, but experts say COVID-19 patients often remain on the ventilators for 10 days or more.
– John Bacon
Social distancing disrupts Passover
The matzo, bitter herbs, blessings and storytelling will still be part of Seders this year, but a major element of the traditional Passover dinner will be missing – extended families getting together.
As with so many disruptions in these troubled times, the coronavirus is to blame.
The pandemic that has killed more than 86,000 people worldwide and nearly 14,000 in the U.S. has prompted religious leaders to advise against the large family-and-friend gatherings that are such a major part of Passover. The Jewish holiday, which commemorates the exodus from slavery in Egypt more than 3,000 years ago, begins Wednesday at sundown.
“We made an unequivocal statement to stay at home. Do not travel. Do not go to your neighbor. Don’t go to your brother,” Rabbi Aaron Kotler, president of Yeshiva Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, New Jersey, told the Asbury Park Press. “We know, for the last 20 years, you’ve been observing Passover as a family. But do not leave your home for the Passover holiday.”
New York state, with an estimated Jewish population of 1.75 million, has by far the most cases of coronavirus in the U.S. at 140,000-plus. New Jersey ranks second with more than 44,000. Its Jewish population is estimated at more than 500,000.
WHO chief brushes off Trump criticism
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he wouldn’t play politics after President Donald Trump sharply criticized the group, saying it made mistakes in handling the coronavirus outbreak.
“Why would I care about being attacked when people are dying?” Tedros said while also warning that politicizing the pandemic could be dangerous. “If you don’t want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicizing it.”
At a press briefing and on Twitter on Tuesday, Trump complained that the U.S. gave large sums of money to fund the global health group but that it was “China-centric.” He said the U.S. would hold off on funding the WHO.
“They called it wrong. They missed the call,” Trump said at the press briefing.
Tedros said the agency was made up of humans “who make mistakes” but advised “please quarantine politicizing COVID.”
U.S. testing too limited to know when normalcy will return, expert says
It took nearly 11 weeks for Wuhan, the Chinese city at the heart of the coronavirus outbreak, to return to a semblance of normalcy. When that might happen in the U.S. remains a mystery because of the testing shortage.
That assessment comes from Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch, who told the USA TODAY Editorial Board that when officials ease social distancing measures – allowing students return to school and workers to their jobs – the U.S. may see a second wave of cases.
“If we relax restrictions … there’s every reason to expect a resurgence of cases and we’re back in the same problem,” Lipsitch said.
Lipsitch, an expert in public health interventions, said he believes a large portion of the population must be immune to the virus either through infection or vaccinations before the country can be “reopened.”
— Adrianna Rodriguez
Thousands in Louisiana infected by untested patients with symptoms
Coronavirus spread to thousands of Louisiana residents from sick patients who showed symptoms in early March, while their infections went unreported because of too few tests and limits on who got them, state health department data show.
When Louisiana reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19 in New Orleans on March 9, more than 200 people who would later be confirmed to have the disease were already showing symptoms, the state health data shows.
As the state’s reported caseload grew to 2,747 patients by March 27, more than 13,250 people were actually infected with the virus and showing symptoms, based on case studies reported to the state health department.
The new information offers the first definitive look at how quickly the virus spread in Louisiana and the impact limited testing had on quantifying and containing the virus’ spread. Louisiana has the fifth-largest total of coronavirus cases in the nation, with more than 17,000, despite ranking 25th in population (4.6 million).
— Andrew Capps, Lafayette Daily Advertiser
[11:48 AM] Villalobos, Louie
90% of federal protective equipment stockpile depleted, new documents show
According to new documents released Wednesday by the House Oversight Committee, 90% of the federal personal protective equipment stockpile had been depleted as the Health and Human Services Department made its “final shipments” of N95 respirators, surgical and face masks, face shields, gowns, and gloves.
The remaining 10%, HHS said, would be reserved for federal workers and would not be sent to the states.
The documents, which report the distribution of personal protective equipment to state and local governments, show that only 11.7 million N95 respirator masks have been distributed across the nation, and only 7,920 ventilators have been distributed — both small fractions of the estimated amount of protective equipment needed by frontline medical workers.
The Committee also said the private sector was determining how supplies were allocated, rather than the federal government.
“The federal government is not taking control of the supplies flown into the United States in ‘Project Airbridge’ or directing private sector suppliers to send supplies to particular hospitals with urgent needs,” the Committee said.
House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., slammed the Trump administration’s handling of supply distribution.
“Now that the national stockpile has been depleted of critical equipment, it appears that the Administration is leaving states to fend for themselves, to scour the open market for these scarce supplies, and to compete with each other and federal agencies in a chaotic, free-for-all bidding war,” she said.
— Nicholas Wu
Spike in deaths at Virginia nursing home
A Virginia nursing home reports 33 COVID-19-related deaths, only four less than the number of fatalities at a Seattle-area nursing home that was the early epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S.
The deaths from coronavirus at Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center have more than doubled in the past five days. Residents started contracting the virus in the middle of March. The 33rd death was reported Wednesday by the center.
The facility is located in Henrico County, which surrounds the city of Richmond, 115 miles south of Washington, D.C. Among the current residents, 49 have experienced virus-related symptoms, ranging from severe to mild. In total, 90 Canterbury residents have tested positive.
— Doug Stanglin
Trump tells GM to ramp up on ventilators
President Donald Trump’s administration Wednesday directed General Motors to deliver 30,000 ventilators by August, using the federal government’s vast wartime powers amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The order, announced by the Department of Health and Human Services, will require the Detroit automaker to build more than 6,000 ventilators by June as governors in some states say they are woefully short of the lifesaving units and unable to buy more.
It’s the first time the administration has invoked the Korean War-era Defense Production Act as lawmakers in both parties had been pushing it to do. The GM order follows combative remarks from the president in which he accused GM of reneging on an initial voluntary agreement.
GM spokesman Jim Cain said the company is working “with speed and urgency” to build the units.
— John Fritze and Phoebe Wall Howard
Black people overwhelmingly dying from coronavirus in cities across US
Black Americans are overwhelmingly dying of coronavirus at much higher rates compared to other Americans in some major cities, but most federal officials and states are not keeping track or releasing racial data on coronavirus victims, raising concerns about care for the nation’s most vulnerable populations.
President Donald Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a White House briefing Tuesday that African Americans were being hit hard by the coronavirus, representing a “tremendous challenge” for the nation, according to the president.
“We want to find the reason to it,” Trump said, adding that national data on race and coronavirus cases should be available later this week.
Fauci said existing health disparities have made the outbreak worse for the African American community. “So we are very concerned about that. It is very sad. There is nothing we can do about it right now except to give them the best possible care to avoid complications,” Fauci said.
Less than a handful of states have released the information, including Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and North Carolina. Data from these states show blacks are dying at a disproportionately higher rate compared with whites.
– Deborah Barfield Berry
Wall Street ticks up amid unsettled trading around the world
Stocks ticked higher in morning trading on Wall Street on Wednesday after a rally fizzled in the final hour of trading Tuesday following another plunge in oil prices.
The S&P 500 was up 2.4% by noon Eastern Time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 585 points, or 2.6%, to 23,244, and the Nasdaq was up 2.1%.
Trading remained unsettled around the world; Asian stock markets were mixed and European indexes down.
Markets have been extremely volatile in recent weeks as investors blindly guess how badly the coronavirus outbreak will hurt corporate profits amid suffocating uncertainty. The economic damage is widespread, and France’s central bank said its economy entered a recession with a 6% drop in the first three months of the year.
Disney considering temperature checks at parks
Bob Iger, the Disney Chairman and former CEO, described possible new measures Disney parks could take when reopening to return to “some semblance of normal.”
In an interview with Barron’s, Iger said park visitors will have to feel safe, and he suggested temperature checks may be part of Disney’s plan.
“Some of that could come in the form ultimately of a vaccine, but in the absence of that it could come from basically, more scrutiny, more restrictions,” he said. “Just as we now do bag checks for everybody that goes into our parks, it could be that at some point we add a component of that that takes people’s temperatures, as a for-instance.”
Walt Disney World and Disneyland temporarily shut down in March.
– Sara M. Moniuszko
What could be in next coronavirus aid package?
Americans have yet to receive their $1,200 stimulus checks from the federal government, but another round of cash payments could be coming their way.
Talks are under way between the Trump administration and Congress on another recovery package to blunt the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. A second round of cash payments to Americans is part of the discussions.
Among the other provisions that might be included in the next stimulus bill: hazard pay for health workers, infrastructure spending, mail-in and absentee voting.
– Michael Collins and Christal Hayes
More coronavirus news and information from USA TODAY
• ICE is holding more than 34,000 detainees in close quarters. They’re ‘terrified of dying’ amid coronavirus outbreak.
• Your coronavirus questions, answered:Do I need to wear gloves, too? Should I disinfect groceries? Does UV light kill COVID-19?
• Make your own face mask.Here’s a step-by-step guide.
• ‘You’re laid off. Sorry.’ When coronavirus closed colleges, student workers lost jobs.
• Did the Obama administration deplete the federal stockpile of N95 masks? We checked the facts.
• You’re stuck inside:Take a (virtual) field trip to Easter Island, The Met, San Diego Zoo and more.
British PM Boris Johnson remains in ICU but ‘responding to treatment’
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is “responding to treatment” after he spent a second night in intensive care with COVID-19, his office said Wednesday.
Johnson, 55, is being cared for in St Thomas’ Hospital in central London, where he is in stable condition and remains in “good spirits,” Downing Street said in a statement.
The prime minister’s spokesman, James Slack, said Johnson is continuing to receive “standard oxygen treatment” and is breathing without a ventilator or other assistance.
Slack did not provide any further details. Slack said Tuesday that the prime minister does not have pneumonia.
– Kim Hjelmgaard
Coronavirus news from USA TODAY
• Mapping coronavirus:Tracking the U.S. outbreak, state by state.
• Are you overeating in quarantine? You’re not alone.
• Donald Trump has touted hydroxychloroquine. Here’s what we know about the malaria drug.
• How the 50 states are responding to coronavirus: Here’s why eight states haven’t issued stay-at-home orders.
• Is coronavirus spreading ‘quickly’ on gas pumps? That claim is partly false, and here’s why.
Contributing: The Associated Press.