The U.S. coronavirus death toll surpassed 4,000 early Wednesday, and public health officials were considering recommending that more Americans wear face masks to combat the pandemic that has brought the global economy to its knees.
“Even if you do wear a mask, it can’t be at the expense of social distancing,” said Surgeon General Jerome Adams. He added that high-tech, N95 masks would not be necessary – and could come at the expense of health care workers who need them.
The current U.S. death toll appears to be a tiny fraction of what the nation faces over the next few weeks, public health officials say. They estimate 100,000 to 240,000 Americans could die this year because of the coronavirus.
Nearly 1,100 have died in New York City alone, prompting the city to open temporary hospitals in a convention center and iconic Central Park. While health experts says social distancing has slowed the spread of the virus, there are still states – Florida, most notably – without statewide stay-at-home orders.
Worldwide, there are more than 44,000 deaths and 883,000 confirmed cases. The U.S., which has now surpassed China’s death toll, is closing in on 200,000 confirmed cases, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.
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CDC to review whether more people should wear face masks
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will review its guidance discouraging the general public from wearing masks, Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Wednesday on ABC’s Good Morning America.
“We’ve learned there’s a fair amount of asymptomatic spread, and so we’ve asked the CDC to take another look at whether or not having more people wear masks will prevent transmission of the disease to other people,” Adams said. The CDC’s current guidance is that sick people should wear masks, but healthy people should not unless they are in contact with COVID-19 patients.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s “Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction with Dr. Sanjay Gupta” podcast that he supports the public donning masks as long as health care workers are the first priority: “I would lean toward it because I mean what harm can it do if you have enough masks?”
– Nicholas Wu
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US stocks continue slide
U.S. stocks, fresh off one of the worst quarters in history, fell sharply when the markets opened Wednesday as the Dow dropped more than 800 points. The decline comes a day after the blue-chip index posted its worst first quarter ever.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 also sank Wednesday: 10 of the 11 sectors were lower, led by declines in financial, real estate and utility shares. The losses come as President Donald Trump warned Americans to brace for a “hell of a bad two weeks” ahead as the White House projected there could be 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the U.S.
Said Anwiti Bahuguna, head of multi-asset strategy at Columbia Threadneedle Investments: “What we are experiencing now is the equivalent of putting a patient in a medically induced coma – a calculated, temporary risk with the goal of establishing greater longer-term health.”
– Jessica Menton
Anchor Chris Cuomo gets a consult from CNN’s TV doc
CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, the brother of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, hosted his program from his basement Wednesday night, hours after announcing he tested positive for the coronavirus. “I feel fine. I’m able to do the show, but you do not want this,” Cuomo told his audience. He discussed his symptoms, including shortness of breath and tightness in his chest, with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon and chief medical correspondent for CNN. Gupta said they would talk off the air, saying tightness in the chest is one of the symptoms he “worries about.”
Cuomo, 49, said he is self-isolating in his basement and away from his family. The inability to be with his loved ones, and the possibility that he could cause them to become ill, is “hurting me way more than anything a virus can.”
Prince Charles is ‘on the other side’ of his coronavirus diagnosis
Prince Charles, who tested positive last week for COVID-19 after “displaying mild symptoms,” said in a video announcement shared by Clarence House that he is feeling better but will stay in isolation.
“Having recently gone through the process of contracting this coronavirus, luckily with relatively mild symptoms, I now find myself on the other side of the illness but still in no less a state of social distance and general isolation,” Charles said.
The 71-year-old son of Queen Elizabeth II expressed condolences to the sick and the families of those who have died. His wife, Camilla, 72, tested negative for the virus.
– Hannah Yasharoff
For many, rent is due today – and won’t be easy to make
Rent was due Wednesday, the first day of April, for millions of Americans. Rent day comes as a record 3.3 million Americans have filed for unemployment in a crisis that could lead to nearly 50 million people losing their jobs. The federal government took a big step toward protecting renters by issuing a 120-day moratorium on evictions from federally subsidized housing or from a property with a federally backed mortgage loan. And a USA TODAY analysis shows that at least 34 states have issued broader moratoriums on evictions.
“I will be able to pay my April rent, but I don’t know about May or June,” said Phoenix resident Ada Obinway.
– Alan Gomez
Navy working with Guam governor to isolate sick US sailors
Sailors who have tested negative for the coronavirus from the virus-stricken aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt will be quarantined, many off-base in Guam hotels, as soon as possible, authorities said. Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said Wednesday that military personnel already stationed on Guam would act as a buffer between the quarantined sailors and civilians. Dozens of the ship’s 5,000 sailors have tested positive, and the close quarters make social distancing impossible.
“We can protect Guam while being humane to them,” she said. “That is the Guam I know, and we will not abandon who we are out of fear.
– Steve Limtiaco and Jasmine Stole Weiss, Pacific Daily News
Trump to lobby Florida governor about stranded cruise ships
President Donald Trump says he is going to speak with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis about whether to allow two Holland America cruise ships to dock in his state. One of the ships has four dead passengers and 200 other passengers and crew suffering from flu-like symptoms. Trump never explicitly said what he plans to tell DeSantis, who has raised concerns about hospital beds that might be needed for Floridians.
Holland America’s MS Zaandam and MS Rotterdam cruise ships have crossed the Panama Canal and are headed to Florida. William Burke, chief maritime officer of Carnival Corp., which owns Holland America Line, said Port Everglades has become the ships’ “port of last resort.”
“I am going to do what is right, not only for us but for humanity,” Trump said.
– Morgan Hines, David Oliver and Chris Woodyard
Some assembly required: Hopkins volunteers make 5,000 shields daily
Dozens of volunteers at Johns Hopkins are gathering at a Baltimore warehouse to manufacture 5,000 face shields per day for clinicians, the university says. Many are medical students being kept away from patients for now. Thus the hands of future-surgeons are meticulously working with scissors, glue guns and staplers.
“It’s really important for doctors to have the right protective equipment, especially with a virus like this, and there are shortages everywhere,” said third-year med student Lukas Mees. “They don’t want us taking direct care of patients who have the virus, so I was just looking for another way to help.”
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US coronavirus death toll could reach 240,000, according to projections
Estimates of 100,000 to 240,000 Americans dying this year because of the coronavirus convinced President Donald Trump to extend social distancing guidelines, federal public officials said.
And that grim scenario would be worse without intervention, and a projection of as many as 2.2 million deaths, according to White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx.
The administration’s top health officials, including Anthony Fauci, director of the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that models are not always accurate and will be influenced by how seriously Americans take orders to avoid contact with others. Trump and others have said April could be a particularly deadly month in the ongoing battle with the virus.
– John Fritze