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Coronavirus Cases Hit All 50 States, as U.S. Death Toll Tops 100

WEDNESDAY, March 18, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Coronavirus continued its insidious spread throughout America on Tuesday, as all 50 states reported cases and the death toll topped 100.

As the case count climbed past 6,000, the Trump administration pushed an $850 billion aid package that could include $1,000 checks sent to all Americans, to blunt the severity of a financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic in this country, CNN reported.

Meanwhile, state and local officials across the country continued to order the temporary closings of bars and nightclubs and the placement of seating restrictions on restaurants. And New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio said Tuesday that a "shelter-in-place" order could be announced for the city's 8.6 million residents in the next 48 hours, the New York Times reported.

As public officials raced to contain the spread of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that Canada and the United States are hammering out the details of a mutual ban on non-essential travel between the two countries. A Canadian official spoke to the wire service about the negotiations on the condition of anonymity.

On Monday, the Trump Administration on Monday ramped up its coronavirus "social distancing" advisory to now discourage gatherings of 10 or more people.

Hours later, about 7 million people in the San Francisco Bay Area were ordered to shelter in their homes, an order that was extended to another 1 million residents on Tuesday. Residents were instructed to only leave for "essential" reasons, such as going grocery shopping, going to the bank, using gas stations and going to pharmacies, CNN reported. By far the strictest social distancing measure in the United States at this point, the order mirrors many of those already in place across Europe.

""We know these measures will significantly disrupt people's day to day lives, but they are absolutely necessary," San Francisco Mayor London Breed said in a statement. "This is going to be a defining moment for our city, and we all have a responsibility to do our part to protect our neighbors and slow the spread of this virus by staying at home unless it is absolutely essential to go outside."

For now, the federal government recommends less drastic measures for the rest of the country.

"This afternoon we're announcing new guidelines for every American to follow over the next 15 days," President Donald Trump said during a Monday media briefing.

In addition to advising against group gatherings of more than 10 people, Trump also discouraged eating and drinking at restaurants, bars and food courts, and any discretionary travel.

The prior advisory had discouraged gatherings of 50 or more people. However, Dr. Deborah Birx, a virologist and coronavirus task force coordinator, explained that newer models of the virus' spread now implicate people who might not even show symptoms as a significant source of "silent" infections.

A computer modeling report from researchers at Imperial College London that predicted 2 million American deaths unless stringent social distancing measures were enacted may have convinced U.S health officials to take the extraordinary step, the Times reported.

According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, all Americans need to limit their contact with others to slow the rate of new infections.

"The worst is yet ahead for us," Fauci warned, and the crisis could continue into the summer. "It's how we respond [now] to that challenge that will determine what the ultimate endpoint is going to be."

But there was some encouraging news on the supply of COVID-19 infection testing kits.

Adm. Brett Giroir, who is leading the Department of Health and Human Services' efforts in coordinating coronavirus testing, said that a rollout of test kits has entered "a new phase," as commercial labs with highly efficient, automated systems ramp up their services. Giroir said 1 million tests are now available, 2 million more should be ready over the next week, and 5 million more a week later.

States mobilize

State officials across America had already begun to enact even tough restrictions to try to slow the spread of coronavirus, as the country's case count reached passed 6,000, with 111 deaths, CNN reported.

On Saturday, the Trump administration expanded a 30-day ban on travel from Europe to include residents from the United Kingdom and Ireland, beginning late Monday.

And in a Saturday press conference, Pence hinted that restrictions on domestic travel in coronavirus hotspots might come as well.

Aid to states

Trump's announcement last Friday of a national emergency, nearly unprecedented in American history, immediately freed up more than $50 billion in federal funds to help states control the spread of COVID-19 before it overwhelms hospitals and health care systems.

"Through a very collective action and shared sacrifice and national determination, we will overcome the threat of the virus," Trump said at a White House press briefing, flanked by top officials engaged in the coronavirus fight.

As well as delivering a huge funding boost, the national emergency declaration also greatly broadens the powers of the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Alex Azar. The HHS can now bypass regulations that might otherwise hem in a hospital's ability to reach peak performance as critically ill cases flood in.

The president also said his administration is doubling down on testing for COVID-19. Experts, including Fauci, have already called the slow rollout of such tests a system failure.

Now, there's "a new partnership with the private sector to vastly accelerate and test for the coronavirus," Trump said Friday.

Beyond that, Trump and health officials said that Google will soon create a new website that will let any American describe his or her symptoms online and, if applicable, be directed to the nearest drive-through testing site.

Stores such as Walmart, CVS and Walgreens will set aside part of their parking lots for drive-through testing.

Crisis is changing lives

In the meantime, the public lives of Americans have come to a halt, as the coronavirus pandemic prompted officials across the country to close, cancel or postpone any event or activity that might foster the spread of COVID-19.

At least 37 states have shuttered all public schools, CNN reported. Meanwhile, Broadway went dark, Disney World and Disneyland were closed, March Madness was canceled, and most professional sports leagues postponed their seasons.

Cases in Washington state spiked to 1,012 by Tuesday. In New York state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has turned a New York City suburb into a "containment zone." Schools and houses of worship in the city of New Rochelle will be closed for two weeks. A cluster of more than 380 cases there could be the largest in the nation, and National Guard troops have been ordered to help clean public spaces and deliver food during the containment period, the AP reported.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said all gatherings of more than 250 in that state should be postponed.

California, Washington state and New York now have the highest number of coronavirus cases in the United States, the Times reported. New York has 1,374, Washington state now has 1,012 cases and California has 472.

Cases spread worldwide

As of Tuesday, the WHO had reported 184,975 cases of coronavirus in 159 countries and territories, including over 7,529 deaths, the majority of which have occurred in China, where the outbreak began.

Internationally, hopes of containing the coronavirus are fading fast.

In Asia, South Korea and Iran are each battling major outbreaks of COVID-19. In Europe, Italy has ordered a lockdown of the entire country, some 60 million people, as it tries to contain a major outbreak of COVID-19. By Tuesday morning, the case count in that country had passed 31,000, CNN reported.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus.

By Robin Foster and E.J. Mundell
HealthDay Reporters



SOURCES: March 16, 2020, media briefing with: President Donald Trump; March 9, 2020, media briefing with Vice President Mike Pence; U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Anthony Fauci, M.D., director, U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; CNN; USA Today; Washington Post; Associated Press; The New York Times

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