New York rushed to call in an army of medical volunteers as the statewide death rate from coronavirus doubled in 72 hours to more than 1,900, while the global number of people diagnosed with the disease approached nearly a million on Thursday.
As hot spots erupted in places like New Orleans and southern California in the United States, the country’s largest city was hit the hardest, with bodies loaded into morgue trucks chilled by trucks and forklifts outside of submerged hospitals.
The groan of ambulances on the otherwise strangely quiet streets of the city has become the heartbreaking soundtrack of the crisis.
“It’s like a battlefield behind your house,” said Emma Sorza, 33, who could hear the sirens of the severely flooded Elmhurst Hospital in Queens.
And the worst is yet to come.
“How does it end?” And people want answers, “said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. “I want answers. The answer is that no one knows for sure. “
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President Donald Trump has acknowledged that federal stocks of personal protective equipment used by doctors and nurses are nearly depleted and has warned of the times to come.
“Difficult days are ahead for our nation,” he said. “We are going to have a few weeks, starting roughly now, but especially in a few days that are going to be horrible. “
In total, nearly 940,000 people worldwide have contracted the virus, according to a count by Johns Hopkins University. More than 47,000 people have died from the virus, which was first discovered in China at the end of last year.
The actual numbers are thought to be much higher due to shortages of tests, differences in the death count and a large number of mild, unreported cases.
Asian stocks snapped Thursday after a White House warning that 240,000 Americans could die in the pandemic, Wall Street plummeted. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost more than 970 points, or more than 4%.
Meanwhile, European countries facing extraordinary demand for intensive care beds were setting up makeshift hospitals, unsure if they would find enough healthy medical staff to manage them. London was a few days away from revealing a temporary 4,000-bed hospital built in a huge convention center.
Spain recorded a record 864 deaths in one day on Wednesday, for a total of more than 9,000, while France recorded 509 deaths for more than 4,000 deaths in total.
In Italy, with the highest number of deaths of all countries (more than 13,000), morgues are full of corpses and coffins piled up in churches, although experts hope that the spread is already slowing in the country.
Meanwhile, the Israeli health minister, who has had frequent contact over the past few weeks with Prime Minister Netanyahu and other senior officials, has been diagnosed with the disease, the health ministry said on Thursday.
Scientists on Wednesday provided more evidence that coronavirus can be spread by apparently healthy people who have no clear symptoms, which has prompted the U.S. government to issue new guidelines warning that anyone exposed to the disease can be considered a potential carrier.
Many countries are now modeling their response to the virus in part after China, which closed an entire province in January that shelters tens of millions of people in what was once an unprecedented lockdown. The government says the measures have been successful, with almost all new cases of viruses imported from abroad.
Residents of Wuhan, once the epicenter of the crisis, are beginning to return to work. They are followed by a smartphone app that indicates if they have no symptoms. The app is necessary for getting on a metro, checking in to a hotel, or simply entering the city.
Upon entering a subway station on Wednesday, Wu Shenghong, a clothing manufacturer manager, used his phone to scan a barcode on a poster that triggered its application. A green code and part of his identity card number appeared on the screen. A guard wearing a mask and glasses waved to him.
If the code was red, it would indicate to the caretaker that Wu has been confirmed infected or has a fever or other symptoms and is awaiting a diagnosis. A yellow code would mean that she has been in contact with an infected person but has not completed her quarantine for two weeks, which means that she should be hospitalized or quarantined.
More measures to control the spread of the virus were rolled out in the United States on Wednesday. Under mounting pressure, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis belatedly joined counterparts from more than 30 states to issue a home stay order in the whole state. The governors of Pennsylvania, Nevada and Mississippi have taken similar action.
The United States has recorded more than 216,000 infections and more than 5,100 deaths, with New York City accounting for approximately 1 in 4 deaths.
More than 80,000 people have volunteered as medical reinforcements in New York, including recent retirees and medical professionals taking a break from their regular work. A Navy hospital ship has docked in the harbor, a convention center has been turned into a hospital, and the tennis center that hosts the US Open is becoming one.
Those who arrive to help have found a hospital system near the breaking point.
“It is difficult when you lose patients. It’s hard to tell family members, “I’m sorry, but we’ve done everything we can,” said nurse Katherine Ramos of Cape Coral, Florida, who works at the New York Presbyterian Hospital. “It’s even more difficult when you really don’t have time to cry, time to talk about it. “
Cuomo said projections suggest the New York crisis will peak in late April, with a high death rate continuing through July.
The pressure on some of the best health systems in the world has been compounded by hospital budget cuts over the past decade in Italy, Spain, France and Britain. They called medical students, retired doctors, and even licensed flight attendants with first aid training.
The staff shortage has been compounded by the high number of people infected. In Italy alone, nearly 10,000 medical workers have contracted the virus and more than 60 doctors have died.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially the elderly and people with health conditions, it can cause serious symptoms like pneumonia.
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