Coronavirus Live Updates: As Virus Spreads Swiftly Worldwide, China Reports Zero New Infections
As the virus spreads, the human toll grows.
China reported its first day with no new locally transmitted coronavirus infections, three months after the first case was detected. But the march of the affliction gathered pace while nations throughout the world braced for a surge of infections and, ultimately, deaths.
For the Fusco family in Freehold, N.J., the dangers of the virus and its pernicious exploitation of human connection were laid bare when Grace Fusco, 73, died Wednesday night, hours after her son and five days after her daughter. Four other family members are hospitalized, three of them in critical condition, from an infection traced to a routine family gathering.
No one is safe.
Two members of Congress tested positive and were in isolation on Thursday. While older people remain at gravest risk worldwide, a C.D.C. report found that 38 percent of those who required hospitalization in the U.S. were aged 20 to 54.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, warned that as testing becomes more widespread, people would see the numbers soar.
President Trump signed a relief package to provide sick leave, unemployment benefits and free coronavirus testing, and lawmakers were drafting an even more sweeping $1 trillion economic stabilization package.
But even as the federal government invoked wartime powers to speed the production of essential medical equipment, such as surgical masks, protective body suits, testing kits and, especially, ventilators remained in short supply.
World leaders escalated pleas to the only ones who can ultimately help buy time: everyone.
“It’s down to each and every one of us,” Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said in a televised address. “We are not doomed to helplessly watch the spread of the virus. We have a means to fight it: we must practice social distancing.”
Failure to do so could result in even more stringent lockdowns that Germany has so far avoided, she said. “We are a democracy. We don’t live by force, but by shared knowledge and cooperation.”
In California, more than nine million people have been told not to leave their homes. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York resisted taking such a drastic step, even as he ordered businesses to compel employees to work from home.
In Spain, violations of isolation orders are enforced with fines. Russia is using facial-recognition technology to track down and fine people who violate mandatory quarantines. Beaches in Barcelona are closed, but many Americans were heading to sandy shores for Spring Break.
Even as nations wrestled with a public health emergency, the economic crisis grew darker, deepening the anxiety felt by people increasingly cut off from their support networks.
But, as Ms. Merkel said, even as a society in isolation, “we will show that we are there for one another.”
China reports zero local infections, a major turning point.
For the first time since the coronavirus crisis began, China on Thursday reported no new local infections for the previous day, a milestone in its costly battle with the outbreak that has since spread around the world.
Officials said 34 new coronavirus cases had been confirmed, all of them involving people who had come to China from elsewhere.
In signaling that an end to China’s epidemic might be in sight, the announcement could pave the way for officials to focus on reviving the country’s economy, which nearly ground to a halt after the government imposed travel restrictions and quarantine measures. In recent days, economic life has been resuming in fits and starts.
But China is not out of danger yet. Experts have said that it will need to see at least 14 consecutive days without new infections for the outbreak to be considered truly over. It remains to be seen whether the virus will re-emerge once daily life restarts and travel restrictions are lifted around the country.
“It’s very clear that the actions taken in China have almost brought to an end their first wave of infections,” said Ben Cowling, a professor and head of the division of epidemiology and biostatistics at Hong Kong University’s School of Public Health. “The question is what will happen if there’s a second wave, because the kind of measures that China has implemented are not necessarily sustainable in the long term.”
To contain the outbreak, the authorities shut schools and workplaces and imposed travel and quarantine restrictions on broad swaths of the population and many visitors from abroad. Since January, more than 50 million people in the central province of Hubei, including its capital, Wuhan, where the outbreak began, have been subjected to a strict lockdown.
Many hospitalized in the U.S. are younger adults.
American adults of all ages — not just those in their 70s, 80s and 90s — are being seriously sickened by the coronavirus, according to a report on nearly 2,500 cases in the United States.
The report, issued Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that — as in other countries — the oldest patients were at greatest risk of becoming seriously ill or dying. But of the 508 coronavirus patients known to have been hospitalized in the United States, 38 percent were between 20 and 54. And nearly half of the 121 sickest patients studied — those admitted to intensive care units — were adults under 65.
“I think everyone should be paying attention to this,” said Stephen S. Morse, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University. “It’s not just going to be the elderly.”
Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, appealed on Wednesday for younger people to stop socializing in groups and to take care to protect themselves and others.
“You have the potential then to spread it to someone who does have a condition that none of us knew about, and cause them to have a disastrous outcome,” Dr. Birx said.
In the C.D.C. report, 20 percent of the hospitalized patients and 12 percent of the intensive care patients were between the ages of 20 and 44, basically spanning the millennial generation.
First details of Trump’s economic package includes $500 billion for taxpayers.
The Trump administration on Wednesday broadened the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and spelled out the first details of a $1 trillion economic package, asking Congress for an infusion of $500 billion for direct payments to taxpayers and $500 billion in loans for businesses.
President Trump invoked a seldom-used wartime law that allows the government to press American industry into service to ramp up production of medical supplies. He said he would send two military hospital ships to New York and California.
He also directed federal agencies to suspend all foreclosures and evictions until the end of April as the full economic toll of the crisis began to set in around the world. And he agreed with Canada to stop all nonessential traffic across the northern border.
After weeks of playing down the outbreak, Mr. Trump appeared on Wednesday to fully embrace the scope of the calamity, saying he saw himself as a wartime president and invoking memories of the efforts made by Americans during World War II.
“Now it’s our time,” Mr. Trump said at a news conference at the White House. “We must sacrifice together because we are all in this together, and we will come through together. It’s the invisible enemy.”
Entire sectors of the American economy are shutting down, threatening to crush businesses, put millions of people out of work and forcing lawmakers to consider a vast financial bailout that would dwarf the federal government’s response to the 2008 crisis.
The scale of the problem is unlike anything Washington has faced before: The financial crisis, which sent unemployment skyrocketing to 10 percent, centered on foreclosures and the banking sector while this crisis is springing from dozens of place at once, as restaurants and movie theaters shut down, factories close and airplanes, public trains and buses run nearly empty of passengers.
Economists fear that by the time the coronavirus pandemic subsides and economic activity resumes, entire industries could be wiped out, proprietors across the country could lose their businesses and millions of workers could find themselves jobless.
Testing in New York gathers speed as health officials rush to stem the spread in Hasidic communities.
New York City officials, already grappling with one of the largest outbreaks in the country, expressed growing alarm that the coronavirus is spreading quickly in tightly knit Hasidic Jewish communities in Brooklyn, saying that they are investigating a recent spike in confirmed cases.
More than 100 people have recently tested positive for the coronavirus in Borough Park and Williamsburg, two Brooklyn neighborhoods with sizable Hasidic-American populations.
Across the state, the number of new cases continued to grow exponentially, something health officials said to expect across the nation as testing is stepped up.
Of the 14,597 people to be tested so far, nearly 5,000 were tested on Tuesday, helping explain why the number of new cases jumped for 1,000 in just 24 hours to 2,382 people.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said he expects the true number to be many times greater than that.
Mr. Cuomo has resisted issuing the kind of “shelter in place” orders being put in place on the West Coast, but he issued new rules meant to decrease density, including ordering businesses to compel half their employees to work from home.
The public health fight has wreaked havoc on the city’s economy, with the hospitality industry an early casualty.
The restaurateur Danny Meyer laid off 2,000 employees from his Union Square Hospitality Group, one of the nation’s leading restaurant companies. Hilton Hotels said it would close the huge New York Hilton Midtown indefinitely starting Friday.
President Trump agreed to dispatch a 1,000-bed hospital ship, the U.S.N.S. Comfort to New York Harbor, but it will not arrive for weeks.
Queen Elizabeth heads to country home as Britain’s restrictions expand.
At 93 years old, Queen Elizabeth II has lived through the Great Depression and World War II. But the spread of the coronavirus has presented a challenge unlike any other that she or her nation have faced during her 66 years on the throne.
The queen’s age puts her squarely in the high-risk category, and the palace is moving to ensure she is isolated.
A planned visit by the emperor and empress of Japan was postponed “in the current circumstances,” Buckingham Palace said on Thursday.
The palace announced this week that, “as a sensible precaution,” several changes would be made to the queen’s schedule, and that she and her husband, Prince Philip, would move to Windsor Castle.
Initially reluctant to impose widespread restrictions on Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that schools would close beginning Friday. He has also ordered 20,000 members of the military be put on standby to assist in the days ahead.
London has been the center of the outbreak in Britain, with more than one-third of the country’s 2,626 confirmed cases. By Wednesday, at least 103 coronavirus patientsn had died.
Train services will also be curtailed this week, with some 40 tube stations across the city closing to limit the number of people moving around the city.
The country’s national health service, already strained, is bracing for an influx of patients. With new cases mounting daily, many have criticized Mr. Johnson for being slow to implement the stringent measures seen across much of Europe.
What does ‘social distancing’ actually mean?
Trump doubles down on labeling the coronavirus ‘Chinese.’
President Trump has defended his increasingly frequent practice of calling the coronavirus the “Chinese virus,” ignoring a growing chorus of criticism that the term is racist and anti-Chinese.
Experts have said that labeling the virus as Chinese will ratchet up tensions between the two countries and result in the kind of xenophobia that American leaders should discourage.
“The use of this term is not only corrosive vis-à-vis a global audience, including here at home, it is also fueling a narrative in China about a broader American hatred and fear of not just the Chinese Communist Party but of China and Chinese people in general,” said Scott Kennedy, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
At a White House briefing on Tuesday, Mr. Trump told reporters that he was attaching “China” to the name of the virus to combat a disinformation campaign promoted by Beijing officials that the American military was the source of the outbreak.
“I didn’t appreciate the fact that China was saying that our military gave it to them,” Mr. Trump said. “I think saying that our military gave it to them creates a stigma.”
Then in two tweets on Wednesday morning, he pointedly referred to the “Chinese virus.” Asked about the term later in the day, he insisted that he was simply pointing out a fact: that the illness was first detected in China.
Public health officials have tried to avoid names that might result in discriminatory behavior against places or ethnic groups since releasing more stringent guidelines for naming viruses in 2015. On Twitter, the White House has criticized what it called “the media’s fake outrage,” pointing to past illnesses that had been named after places, including the Ebola virus and the West Nile virus.
Australia joins growing list of nations to ban all foreign visitors.
In an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia on Thursday barred all foreign citizens and nonresidents from entering the country, becoming the latest world leader to enact a wide-sweeping travel ban since the pandemic was declared.
The ban will take effect beginning on Friday and follows similar orders in Canada and New Zealand.
Mr. Morrison said he had consulted with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand about the ban said it was “essential to take that further step in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus.”
“We have already seen a very significant reduction in the travel to Australia by noncitizens and residents,” he added, citing the fact that 80 percent of cases in the country have been linked to overseas travel.
Australia has recorded 568 cases and six deaths, a figure that reflects the country’s still-limited testing protocols, experts said.
Australian citizens and residents are still able to enter the country from abroad, but must quarantine themselves for 14 days upon returning.
Earlier this week, the island state of Tasmania issued an order that Australians from other parts of the country would have to self-isolate upon entering. Mr. Morrison also issued a rare travel notice for Australians seeking to go overseas, advising them not to travel at all anywhere in the world.
Some countries are just better prepared for a pandemic.
This could be Estonia’s moment.
As Europe is battered by the coronavirus, the tiny Baltic nation should be relatively resilient: Estonia is known as one of the most tech-savvy countries in the world, potentially a big advantage as the outbreak forces economic activity online.
And then there’s Southern Europe, which bore the brunt of the last big economic crisis and will suffer the most. Countries like Greece and Italy depend heavily on tourism and are still suffering the lingering effects of the eurozone debt meltdown over the last decade, including austerity programs that left their health care systems ill prepared for a pandemic.
But even countries regarded as paragons of competitiveness, like Germany and the Netherlands, may turn out to have weaknesses that, until a few weeks ago, were regarded as strengths.
Germany’s automakers, for example, have dominated the luxury car business. But the virus exposed their dependence on sales in China, and now they are closing factories all over the region.
Rich and famous patients are getting tested while other Americans are being denied.
Politicians, celebrities, social media influencers and even N.B.A. players have been tested for the new coronavirus. But as that list of rich, famous and powerful people grows by the day, so do questions about whether they are getting access to testing that is denied to other Americans.
Some of these high-profile people say they are feeling ill and had good reason to be tested. Others argue that those who were found to be infected and then isolated themselves provided a good example to the public.
But with testing still in short supply in areas of the country, leaving health care workers and many sick people unable to get diagnoses, some prominent personalities have obtained tests without exhibiting symptoms or having known contact with someone who has the virus, as required by some testing guidelines. Others have refused to specify how they were tested.
Such cases have provoked accusations of elitism and preferential treatment about a testing system that has already been plagued with delays and confusion, and now stirred a new national debate that has reached the White House — with President Trump being asked at a Wednesday news conference whether “the well-connected go to the front of the line.”
“You’d have to ask them that question,” he replied, suggesting that should not be the case. “Perhaps that’s been the story of life. That does happen on occasion, and I’ve noticed where some people have been tested fairly quickly.”
The question burst into public view this week after the Brooklyn Nets announced Tuesday that four of their players — including Kevin Durant, one of the biggest stars in the N.B.A. — had tested positive. Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York criticized the dynamic, writing on Twitter that while he wished the athletes “a speedy recovery,” he did not think the N.B.A. should be getting tests for its athletes while critically ill patients were kept waiting.
“Tests should not be for the wealthy, but for the sick,” he wrote.
Keeping yourself and your things germ free.
Getting rid of germs is at the top of your mind, and washing your hands properly is the first step in that process. But what about your phone, which you likely handle all day? Here are some tips to help.
Reporting and research was contributed by Javier C. Hernández, Marc Santora, Megan Specia, Melissa Eddy, Katie Rogers, Lara Jakes, Ana Swanson, Nicholas Fandos, Emily Cochrane, Megan Twohey, Steve Eder and Marc Stein.