Coronavirus update: Rising cases and deaths, other developments in pandemic crisis

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By BRYAN GALLION

WASHINGTON — The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States hit almost 175,000 Tuesday afternoon and the death toll surpassed 3,400 as the country prepared for an anticipated peak in fatalities in the coming weeks.

More Americans have been affected by the virus than any other population worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering data dashboard — and the number of U.S. cases continues to grow exponentially despite more and more states ordering their citizens to stay home.

Trump extends social distancing, claims test kit, ventilator surpluses

President Donald Trump extended national social distancing recommendations through the end of April on Sunday, preparing for the apex of deaths in the country before the coronavirus case count slopes downward.

“Challenging times are ahead for the next 30 days, and this is a very vital 30 days…But the more we dedicate ourselves today, the more quickly we will emerge on the other side of the crisis,” Trump told reporters at a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing Monday evening. “And that’s the time we’re waiting for.”

The president also said that the United States has reached “a historic milestone in our war against the coronavirus”: over a million people have been tested. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar added that nearly 100,000 samples are being tested daily.

Like test kits, ventilators have also been in high demand for hospitals to keep coronavirus patients in the most critical condition alive. Trump said that thousands have already been delivered to communities across the country. Hundreds more were being split among Michigan, New Jersey, Illinois, Louisiana and Connecticut.

Some domestically produced ventilators will be shipped to foreign countries, according to Trump.

“As we outpace what we need, we’re going to be sending them to Italy. We’re going to be sending them to France,” the president said. “We’re going to be sending them to Spain, where they have tremendous problems, and other countries.”

Governors fear consequences of supply shortages

While the White House claims test kits and other needed supplies to combat the coronavirus are stocked in surplus across the country, state leaders are sharing differing views of what’s happening on the ground in their communities.

Govs. Larry Hogan, a Maryland Republican, and Gretchen Whitmer, a Michigan Democrat, suggested ways the federal government can assist states amid the pandemic in a bipartisan opinion piece published Monday in the Washington Post.

“There simply aren’t enough test kits, medical supplies and other lifesaving equipment to meet the scope of this pandemic,” the governors wrote. “While states are doing all we can to secure access to these items, the federal government must take extraordinary steps to deliver what we need.”

Hogan and Whitmer also suggested increased federal relief funding and preparation for a surge in federal unemployment insurance as the coronavirus continues to drain the U.S. economy.

Based on several projections, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio said he expects the peak of the virus to arrive between mid-April and mid-May but “we’re not quite sure when.” The lack of widespread testing contributes to the uncertainty, DeWine said in an interview with CNN.

“That is not unique to Ohio,” the governor said. “We have seen that throughout the country. That’s been a real challenge.”

States urge residents to stay at home as case count grows nationwide

Despite social distancing orders in place nationwide, the number of people affected by the coronavirus continues rising rapidly. States have been increasingly urging their citizens to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel.

At least 265 million people in at least 32 states, 80 counties, 18 cities, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have been given stay-at-home orders as of Tuesday, according to a New York Times analysis of states’ policies.

Hogan, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and District Mayor Muriel Bowser all told their residents to stay at home starting Monday.

“We are in a public health crisis, and we need everyone to take this seriously and act responsibly,” Northam said in a statement.

Maryland counties, cities will receive $48 million for coronavirus response

Localities throughout Maryland will be supported by $48 million in federal funds for their coronavirus responses, the state’s congressional delegation announced Tuesday. The monetary aid comes from the CARES Act, which Trump signed into law Friday.

“Local governments are on the frontlines of this crisis,” the state’s senators and congressmen said in a statement. “This federal finding will shore up the capacity of Maryland’s cities and counties to respond to its widespread consequences.”

The funds can be used for needs including shelter for homeless individuals, increased affordable housing and keeping critical public services afloat, the lawmakers said.

As of Tuesday, 1,660 cases have been confirmed statewide, according to Maryland Department of Public Health data.

Baltimore City is being allocated the most money out of the 14 jurisdictions being funded, receiving $20.9 million.

The lawmakers said they expect additional funds to be awarded in the days and weeks to come.

Maryland Department of Health to offer tests at Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program (VEIP) sites

Symptomatic and high-risk Marylanders can receive drive-through coronavirus testing at VEIP locations starting Wednesday, according to the state’s health department.

Testing will be offered in Glen Burnie, Anne Arundel County; Waldorf, Charles County; and Bel Air, Harford County.

“We are focused on testing people who really need it and by using these sites, we can allow them to be tested away from busy emergency rooms, urgent care centers and physicians’ offices,” the state’s Deputy Secretary of Public Health Fran Phillips said in a statement.

Residents must meet testing criteria determined by a healthcare provider, receive a testing order and register for an appointment online. Phillips and Hogan stressed that these testing sites are geared toward people with visible coronavirus symptoms.

“Like every other state in the nation, we simply do not have enough testing supplies,” Hogan said in a statement. “We need to use our resources wisely."
 
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