N.Y. cases top 66,000; Trump says national stay-at-home order unlikely

Members of the Maryland National Guard and Prince George's County Department of Health operate a coronavirus screening site at FedEx Field, the home of the Washington Redskins, in Landover, Md., on Monday. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

March 31 (UPI) — The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New York, the U.S. epicenter of the crisis, has surpassed 66,000 with the addition of 7,000 new cases, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in an update Monday.

Cuomo, speaking to reporters at a makeshift hospital in the Jacob Javits Convention Center, said the majority of the new cases were recorded in New York City, where more than 36,000 patients have so far tested positive.

New York’s death toll rose to more than 1,200, he added, and the number of patients hospitalized jumped by 12 percent.

There have now been more than 3,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States and the total U.S. caseload is more than 164,000, according to a count by experts at Johns Hopkins University on Monday night.

“That’s a lot of loss, that’s a lot of pain, that’s a lot of tears, that’s a lot of grief that people all across the state are feeling,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo waited to stage his daily briefing until after a Navy hospital ship docked in Manhattan on Monday to help alleviate crowding in New York City hospitals. The USNS Comfort adds 1,000 more beds — 750 of which will be used immediately, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

New York also converted Central Park’s East Meadow into a field hospital that was designated as a respiratory care unit in response to the virus, with 68 beds, including 10 that will serve as a makeshift intensive care unit for patients who require ventilators.

The hospital was constructed by 72 disaster assistance response specialists from humanitarian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse and will be operational as of Tuesday.

“This is the kind of thing you will see now as this crisis develops,” de Blasio said.

President Donald Trump, during a briefing in the White House Rose Garden on Monday, said that 1 million people have been tested for the coronavirus. He touted the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of new tests by Chicago-based Abbott Laboratories that are capable of producing test results in minutes.

“Just like tests for flu or strep — where you go to the doctor so you can get the test done — you can get an answer within minutes of having this test done,” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said during the briefing. “Now with those tests being approved for Abbott and for others, these are available throughout the country, they’re planning to scale up the number of tests that can be put out throughout the country over the next month and patients can get the answer within as little as 15 to 5 minutes.”

Trump also said the United States has received donations of supplies from other countries in order to combat the outbreak.

“China sent us some stuff, which was terrific. Russia sent us a very, very large planeload of things, medical equipment which was very nice,” he said.

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci added Monday that it is likely there will be a second outbreak of the coronavirus in the fall.

“In fact, I would anticipate that that would actually happen,” said Fauci, adding, however, that such an outbreak would be “a totally different ball game” in regard to the preparedness of the U.S. government.

“Our ability to go out and be able to test, identify, isolate and detect, trace would be orders of magnitude greater than it was just a couple of months ago,” he said. “In addition, we have a number of clinical trials that are looking at a variety of therapeutic interventions. We hope one or more of them will be available.”

Fauci also noted the government has a vaccine that is on track for an accelerated development and several other candidates that could be used in a potential second outbreak.

Trump on Monday said that it was “pretty unlikely” that he would order a nationwide stay-at-home order beyond the federal social distancing guideline he extended through April 30 on Sunday, noting he has allowed individual governors and other local leaders to make their own distinctions.

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In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a stay-home order for the populous southeastern part of the state, which includes Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued a stay-at-home order that bars residents from traveling outside the state and riding public transportation.

“This is a rapidly escalating emergency situation,” the governor said, just days after the coronavirus killed dozens at a senior center in Mount Airy, Md.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam also issued a stay-at-home order for the state, ordering all Virginians to stay home except in “extremely limited circumstances” including travel to seek medical attention, work, care for family or household members and obtain groceries, prescriptions or other goods and services until June 10.

The order also directs all Virginia institutions of higher education to halt in-person classes and instruction and closed private campgrounds as well as beaches for activities other than fishing and exercise.

“We are in a public health crisis and we need everyone to take this seriously and act responsibly,” Northam said. “Our message to Virginians is clear: stay home. We know this virus spreads primarily through human-to-human contact and that’s why it’s so important that people follow this order and practice social distancing.”

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser also issued a stay-at-home order but warned anyone who violates it may be found guilty of committing a misdemeanor crime and sentenced to up to 90 days in jail and fined $5,000.

“Our message remains the same: stay home,” Bowser said in a statement. “Staying at home is the best way to flatten the curve and protect yourself, your family and our entire community from COVID-19.”

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued a similar order while also encouraging improvements to “social connectedness” by maintaining communication with social supports including family, friends, neighbors and other social groups and developing habits such as physical activities, virtual social gathering and volunteer activities.

“This order builds on the state’s efforts to protect public health by reminding Arizonans to maintain healthy habits and find alternative ways to stay connected with friends and loved ones while spending time at home,” said Ducey.

Also Monday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer imposed a hiring freeze and halted discretionary spending during the health emergency. She authorized $150 million in emergency spending.

Whitmer said her administration must spend to save lives, even though the state faces an expected decline in tax revenues.

“My number one priority is protecting Michiganders’ health and safety,” she said. “However, we must also work to prepare our state for the impact the COVID-19 crisis will have on our economy and the state budget. These executive orders will help us do just that.”

In Louisiana, the state’s caseload and death toll grew Monday. Among those hospitalized was legendary New Orleans Saints placekicker Tom Dempsey, who also has Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Dempsey, 73, who was born without toes on his right foot, became famous for converting a 63-yard field goal to lift the Saints to a 19-17 win over the Detroit Lions on Nov. 8, 1970. His daughter said he picked up the disease while living at a senior center in New Orleans.

In Tennessee, 33 staff members of a Nashville nursing home were in home isolation Monday after testing positive, state officials said. Twenty-three residents at the home were hospitalized Friday.

In Washington, the Transportation Security Administration said more than 50 screening agents have tested positive over the last two weeks. Twenty-two other agents, who have had relatively limited interaction with travelers, have also tested positive, the agency said.

Officials said the affected TSA employees worked at 21 airports in 18 states.

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