US nears China’s virus death toll as New York calls for help

Coronavirus

NEW YORK (AP) — The mounting death toll from the virus outbreak in the United States had it poised Tuesday to overtake China’s grim toll of 3,300 deaths, with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo saying up to 1 million more healthcare workers were needed. “Please come help us,” he urged.

Hard-hit Italy and Spain have already overtaken China and now account for more than half of the nearly 38,000 COVID-19 deaths worldwide, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

But the World Health Organization warned Tuesday that while attention has shifted to epicenters in Western Europe and North America, the coronavirus pandemic was far from over in Asia.

“This is going to be a long-term battle and we cannot let down our guard,” said Dr Takeshi Kasai, the WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific. “We need every country to keep responding according to their local situation.”

In Japan, the countdown clocks were reset and ticking again for the Tokyo Olympics after organizers announced new dates following the postponement from this summer. The clocks read 479 days to go, with the games now scheduled to kick off on July 23, 2021.

In New York City, Cuomo and health officials warned Monday that the crisis unfolding there is just a preview of what other U.S. communities could soon face. New York State’s death toll climbed by more than 250 people in a day Monday to more than 1,200, most of them in the city.

“We’ve lost over one thousand New Yorkers,” Cuomo said. “To me, we’re beyond staggering already.”

The Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort passes lower Manhattan on its way to docking in New York, Monday, March 30, 2020. The ship has 1,000 beds and 12 operating rooms that could be up and running within 24 hours of its arrival on Monday morning. It’s expected to bolster a besieged health care system by treating non-coronavirus patients while hospitals treat people with COVID-19. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Even before the governor’s appeal, close to 80,000 former nurses, doctors and other professionals were stepping up to volunteer, and a Navy hospital ship had arrived with 1,000 beds to relieve pressure on overwhelmed hospitals.

News also came of the first U.S. service member to die from the disease. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said the death of the New Jersey Army National Guardsman strengthened their resolve to work more closely with partners to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“This is a stinging loss for our military community,” Esper said in a release.

More than 235 million people — about two of every three Americans — live in the 33 states where governors have declared statewide orders or recommendations to stay home.

In California, officials put out a similar call for medical volunteers as coronavirus hospitalizations doubled over the last four days and the number of patients in intensive care tripled.

“Challenging times are ahead for the next 30 days, and this is a very vital 30 days,” President Donald Trump told reporters Monday. “The more we dedicate ourselves today, the more quickly we will emerge on the other side of the crisis.”

In contrast, the crisis is continuing to ease in China. On Tuesday, officials in the world’s most populous nation reported just 48 new COVID-19 cases, all of them brought from overseas.

In Wuhan, people were ready to jump, cry and “revenge shop” as the Chinese city once at the center of the global virus outbreak reopened.

“I’m so excited, I want to cry,” said one woman at the Chuhe Hanjie pedestrian mall, where about 75% of the shops had reopened. Shopkeepers were limiting the number of people they were letting in, dispensing hand sanitizer and checking customers for signs of fever.

More than three-quarters of a million people worldwide have become infected and over 37,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe symptoms like pneumonia. More than 160,000 people have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins.

Italy and Spain saw their death tolls climb by more than 800 each on Monday, but the WHO’s emergency chief said cases there were “potentially stabilizing.” At the same time, he warned against letting up on tough containment measures.

“We have to now push the virus down, and that will not happen by itself,” Dr. Michael Ryan said.

Italy’s death toll climbed to nearly 11,600. But in a bit of positive news, the numbers showed a continued slowdown in the rate of new confirmed cases and a record number of people recovered.

“We are saving lives by staying at home, by maintaining social distance, by traveling less and by closing schools,” said Dr. Luca Richeldi, a lung specialist.

At least six of Spain’s 17 regions were at their limit of intensive care unit beds, and three more were close to it, authorities said. Crews of workers were frantically building more field hospitals.

Nearly 15% of all those infected in Spain, almost 13,000 people, are health care workers, hurting hospitals’ efforts to help the tsunami of people gasping for breath.

Tenor Placido Domingo said Monday he is resting at home after catching the new coronavirus.

“I feel fine,” Domingo said in a statement.

The 79-year-old was reportedly hospitalized in Mexico after publicly acknowledging on March 22 that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and said he was going into isolation. He’d suffered from a fever and a cough.

The opera singer’s illness comes after his own glittering career had recently been marred by sexual misconduct revelations.

Israel said 70-year-old Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is quarantining himself after an aide tested positive for the virus. And In Britain, Prince Charles, the heir to the throne who tested positive, ended his period of isolation and is in good health, his office said.

Moscow, meanwhile, locked down its 12 million people as Russia braced for sweeping nationwide restrictions.

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Perry reported from Wellington, New Zealand. Associated Press writers around the world contributed to this report.

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Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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