Coronavirus Live Updates: World Leaders Plead With Public to Stay Home; Debate Rages in U.S. over $1.8 Trillion Relief Package

Here’s what you need to know:

Credit…Gianfranco Tripodo for The New York Times

As debate over a $1.8 trillion relief package raged overnight in Washington, the virus reached into the Senate itself, with one lawmaker testing positive, two more in isolation and growing concern that many others may have been exposed.

Negotiations in Washington were set to resume on Monday, but the political uncertainty added to the anxiety of investors around the world. Wall Street braced for yet another volatile day after Asian markets suffered losses and traders in Europe started the week on a gloomy note.

The postponement of the Olympic Games in Tokyo looked increasingly likely. And the Temple Mount, a holy site in Jerusalem revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims, was closed to all worshipers after images circulated over the weekend of hundreds praying outdoors there, bunched close together.

As the virus continued its menacing march, leaders in democratic societies begged their citizens to stay home and avoid gathering in groups.

“Please save yourself, save your family, follow the instructions seriously,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India wrote on Twitter. Although India has just confirmed 425 cases of infection, experts expect that number to swell in the world’s second most populous nation.

Health experts say there is a road map to defeating the virus, but it requires discipline and near total cooperation from the public, including strict self-isolation. Regrettably, from Sydney to Santa Monica, anecdotal evidence shows that not everyone is taking the warnings seriously.

The consequences of failing to effectively combat the virus were evident in grim scenes playing out day after day in Italy, where 5,000 have died, and increasingly in Spain, with nearly 2,000 deaths.

Videos spread across social media of Spanish doctors in tears speaking about having to tell older patients that they needed to take them off ventilators to save the lives of younger patients. At the same time, the Spanish government announced that 12 percent of those testing positive for the virus were health care workers.

The days ahead will be critical in determining whether the lockdowns across Spain have slowed the spread of the virus. If the steep growth of infections continues much longer, officials warned, the health care system could collapse.

As public health officials and leaders around the world braced their populations for a struggle that could continue for months, President Trump signaled that measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus could have their limits.

“We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself,” he wrote on Twitter. “At the end of the 15 day period, we will make a decision which way we want to go!”

The point of locking down entire cities and nations has been to give health care systems time to gear up so they do not find themselves overwhelmed by a surge of patients. And as the number of known cases in the United States crossed 31,700, governors from multiple states warned that they were still not ready.

California officials told hospitals to restrict coronavirus testing, and a hospital in Washington State warned that it could run out of life-preserving ventilators by early next month. ​Washington State’s Department of Health told local leaders that only the highest-priority areas would have access to the government’s reserves of protective equipment, including N95 masks.

Mr. Trump said that major disaster declarations were in process for New York, California and Washington — the three states hardest hit by the virus — and that they would not have to pay for deploying National Guard units.

Mr. Trump also said he had directed FEMA to supply four large federal medical stations with 1,000 beds for New York, eight stations with 2,000 beds for California, and seven stations with 1,000 beds for the state of Washington. The stations for New York, to be built in Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, were announced earlier in the day by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Many state and local officials have pressed Mr. Trump to use his authority under the Defense Production Act to mobilize industry to manufacture scarce goods. At the news conference on Sunday, Mr. Trump defended his decision not to do so.

“Call a person over in Venezuela,” he said. “Ask them: How did nationalization of their businesses work out? Not too well. The concept of nationalizing our businesses is not a good concept.”

As countries around the world grapple with shortages in protective equipment, health care workers in Spain are confronting the risks posed by the coronavirus. Doctors, nurses and ambulance drivers make up 12 percent of the country’s coronavirus cases, which by Monday totaled nearly 33,000, including 2,200 deaths.

“A nurse cannot work without protection,” Teresa Galindo, who leads a union that represents nurses in the Madrid region, said, adding that she never thought the health service’s resources “could be stretched so far to the limit.”

Videos shared on social media show dire conditions at hospitals in the region, with coughing patients lying on the floor or on beds in corridors, many hooked up to oxygen tanks, as overwhelmed health professionals shuffle past.

“There are people without rooms, sitting in plastic chairs for more than 30 hours,” Javier García, a union representative, told the newspaper El Mundo.

Throughout Spain, hospitals and exhibition centers are being converted into field hospitals. The aid organization Doctors Without Borders has set up a 100-bed unit on a university campus in Madrid, and the army is deploying to bring patients to hospitals and alleviate the burden on the health sector.

Spain is also racing to cope with a shortage of tests, so the number of infected may be far higher than the reported caseload. Hundreds of thousands of new test kits will be handed out in the coming days, the authorities say, and health professionals will be the first to be tested.

A sharp increase in confirmed coronavirus cases in New York State on Sunday indicated that the state now accounts for roughly 5 percent of coronavirus cases worldwide.

The jump stemmed from both the rapid growth of the outbreak and a significant increase in testing in the state. Health officials emphasized that testing was revealing how quickly the virus had spread.

There are now 15,168 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the state, up 4,812 since Saturday, and 114 deaths, Mr. Cuomo said. About 13 percent, or 1,974 people in New York who tested positive for the virus, were hospitalized, he said.

The governor took issue with what he called the “insensitive” and “arrogant” behavior of New York City residents who continued to gather in parks and other public spaces. Mr. Cuomo indicated that he would give the city 24 hours to come up with a plan to reduce density in these spaces, which he would need to approve.

“I don’t know what I’m saying that people don’t get,” Mr. Cuomo said, suggesting that city officials could close some streets to traffic to give residents more outdoor space.

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York warned that the city’s hospitals were straining under a deluge of cases, and he again called on Mr. Trump to send more help.

“I want to see this help arrive rapidly,” Mr. de Blasio said, who said the city’s public hospitals were “10 days away from running out of really basic supplies.”

“April is going to be worse than March,” he said. “And I fear May will be worse than April.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan came close to acknowledging on Monday that the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo needed to be postponed as a result of the pandemic, just hours after Canada and Australia threatened to boycott the Games.

“If asked whether the Games can be held, I don’t think the world is in such a situation,” Mr. Abe said in Parliament. “I want the Tokyo Games to be held in a complete form where all the countries can attend. If we cannot hold it in a complete way, I think I have no choice but to have to decide to postpone it, giving top priority on athletes.”

“I myself think it’s better if the decision is made as soon as possible,” Mr. Abe added, “but the I.O.C. will decide, and the Tokyo metropolitan government has their own thoughts as well.”

At a press briefing on Monday afternoon, Yoshiro Mori, the chairman of the Tokyo organizing committee, said a “possible postponement is inevitable.” After an announcement by the International Olympic Committee on Sunday that it would decide within four weeks whether to delay or scale down the Games, Mr. Mori said the Tokyo organizing committee would join the I.O.C. and “scrutinize various scenarios.”

Pressure has been mounting from athletes and other national Olympic committees to postpone the games. In a joint statement on Sunday, Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic Committees said that going ahead with the Olympics as planned in July contradicted advice from public health officials and that training for that schedule threatened athletes’ health.

“While we recognize the inherent complexities around a postponement, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our athletes and the world community,” the groups said. “This is not solely about athlete health — it is about public health.”

The Australian Olympic Committee said on Sunday that its athletes should “prepare for a Tokyo Olympic Games in the northern summer of 2021.” It said its board had concluded that “an Australian Team could not be assembled in the changing circumstances at home and abroad.”

Several Canadian athletes have been at the forefront of calls for the I.O.C. to postpone or cancel the 2020 Games. Hayley Wickenheiser, a six-time Olympian and a member of the I.O.C. Athletes’ Commission, wrote on Twitter last week that “the IOC insisting this will move ahead with such conviction is insensitive and irresponsible given the state of humanity.”

Senate Democrats on Sunday blocked action on an emerging deal to prop up an economy devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, paralyzing the progress of a nearly $2 trillion government rescue package that they said failed to adequately protect workers or impose strict enough restrictions on bailed-out businesses.

The party-line vote was a stunning setback after three days of fast-paced negotiations between senators and administration officials to reach a compromise on legislation that is expected to be the largest economic stimulus package in American history — now expected to cost $1.8 trillion or more.

In a 47-to-47 vote, the Senate fell short of the 60 votes that would have been needed to advance the measure, even as talks continued behind the scenes between Democrats and the White House to salvage a compromise.

The failure to move forward shook financial markets and threatened an ambitious timeline set by the Trump administration and leading Republicans to move the rescue package through the Senate on Monday and enact it within days.

In voting to block action, Democrats risked a political backlash if they are seen as obstructing progress on a measure that is widely regarded as crucial to aid desperate Americans and buttress a flagging economy.

“This is irresponsible and unwise,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine. “They are playing with fire.”

The move enraged Republicans, whose numbers were dwindling after Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, said on Sunday that he had contracted the coronavirus and prompted two senators to self-isolate and miss the vote that evening.

The mood in the Capitol was grim as the vote unfolded, in an eerie echo of the spectacle in 2008 when the House initially defeated a $700 billion Wall Street bailout, sending the Dow Jones industrials plunging. Sunday evening’s vote was a procedural one, but it shook markets all the same. Dow futures fell 5 percent, inciting a “limit down,” meaning they could not fall any further.

Senators and aides said they still hoped to reach a compromise on the legislation, with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, saying after the vote, “We’re closer than we’ve been at any time over the past 48 hours to an agreement.”

American front-line medical personnel are running desperately short of masks and protective equipment as they battle the coronavirus outbreak. China, already the world’s largest producer of such gear by far, has ramped up factory output and is now signaling that it wants to help.

Reaching deals won’t be easy. Increasingly acrimonious relations between Washington and Beijing are complicating efforts to get Chinese-made masks to American clinics and hospitals.

At heart, the two countries, which only recently reached a truce in President Trump’s trade war, have some similar problems. Both face harsh questions over their missteps in responding to the outbreak.

Washington and Beijing make handy foils for each other — and essential protective gear could get caught in the middle unless they reach an understanding.

The Trump administration is signaling it isn’t too proud to buy Chinese masks, gowns, goggles and other equipment. At the same time, said Peter Navarro, a senior Trump administration trade official, it will object to any Chinese effort to turn deliveries into fodder for propaganda that would bolster China’s image at home and abroad.

“My job at the White House right now is to help find whatever the American people need and buy it from wherever we can, and if we need to send a plane to go get it, we’ll get that done using the full force of government and private enterprise,” Mr. Navarro said in an interview.

Some of the medications are used to treat other diseases, and repurposing them to treat Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, may be faster than trying to invent a new antiviral from scratch, the scientists said.

Among the drugs on the list was remdesivir, an experimental antiviral produced by Gilead Sciences that has been used in emergency cases to treat the coronavirus. But the company said on Sunday that it was suspending access to emergency requests for remdesivir, citing an “exponential increase” in such requests as the virus spreads through Europe and the United States.

As coronavirus cases have increased around the world, demand has overwhelmed “an emergency treatment access system that was set up for very limited access to investigation medicines and never intended for use in response to a pandemic,” the company said in a statement.

The list of drug candidates appeared in a study published on the website bioRxiv. The researchers have submitted the paper to a journal for publication.

Also on the list was chloroquine, a malaria medication that has been much in the news this past week, thanks to speculation about its use against the coronavirus — some of which was repeated by President Trump at a news briefing at the White House on Friday.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, followed the president’s remarks with a warning that there was only “anecdotal evidence” that chloroquine might work.

At least one person has died and dozens more were sickened at a nursing home in Washington State, where a previous outbreak at a similar facility killed 35 people.

The Whatcom County Health Department said on Sunday that it had identified 32 cases associated with Shuksan Healthcare Center, a nursing and rehabilitation facility in Bellingham. Officials said 26 of the cases were residents and six were staff members.

State officials have barred visitors to long-term care facilities in the wake of the outbreak at Life Care Center of Kirkland, first identified at the end of February. That site became an ominous sign of how deadly the coronavirus can be in vulnerable populations.

Since then, the coronavirus has hit dozens of sites around the country that cater to older people, including a New Orleans retirement home linked to five deaths and a veterans home in Oregon with more than a dozen confirmed cases.

Washington was the first state to declare an emergency, but the authorities there have not ordered residents to stay at home. On Sunday, several states — including Ohio, Louisiana and Delaware — joined those cities and states that have compelled residents to shelter in place except for essential tasks like grocery shopping or if their jobs are considered essential.

The number of known coronavirus cases in the United States passed 31,700 on Sunday.

China’s ambassador to the United States sought to distance himself from a prominent Chinese government spokesman who has been promoting a conspiracy theory that the coronavirus was started by the United States, an unusual display of discordance at senior levels of the Chinese government.

The diplomat, Cui Tiankai, said in an interview with Axios on HBO that politicians should refrain from “very harmful” speculation on the source of the virus that has upended daily life and economies around the world.

Mr. Cui’s remarks contradicted the approach taken by his colleague, Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, who has in recent days been tweeting unfounded theories that it may have been the U.S. Army that brought the epidemic to Wuhan, and promoting tweets suggesting that the United States was concealing cases of Covid-19 that had been misdiagnosed as the flu late last year.

In the interview with Axios, the Chinese ambassador, Mr. Cui, reiterated his criticism of people in the United States who were promoting unproven theories about the virus. “This is the job for the scientists to do, not for diplomats, not for journalists to speculate,” he said. “Because such speculation will help nobody. It’s very harmful.”

But he deflected questions about Mr. Zhao’s remarks, saying it wasn’t his job to explain the view of his colleague.

The fringe theories on the virus’s origins first came to the fore last month when Senator Tom Cotton claimed that the deadly coronavirus, which first emerged in Wuhan, was manufactured by the Chinese government. In a February interview on “Face the Nation,” Mr. Cui called such claims “crazy.” He said other rumors asserting that the virus had originated from an American military laboratory were similarly unbelievable.

It is reasonable to feel anxious and worried about the news. Today, we hope to offer you ideas for a small respite.

Reporting and research were contributed by Elian Peltier, Raphael Minder, Marc Santora, Megan Specia, Melissa Eddy, Ian Austen, Mariel Padilla, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Katie Van Syckle, Jesse McKinley, Emily Cochrane, Jim Tankersley, Jeanna Smialek, Kate Taylor, Tiffany May and Mike Baker.

View original article here Source

Related Posts