The coronavirus pandemic continues its relentless expansion in almost every corner of the globe, with the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide rapidly approaching 1 million people — though the true number is certain to be far higher due to a critical lack of testing. The largest number of confirmed cases is in the United States, where coronavirus deaths have topped 5,000. Managers of the Strategic National Stockpile warn emergency supplies of medical equipment, including life-saving ventilators, are all but exhausted.
Here in New York City, the epicenter of pandemic in the United States, over 1,400 people have died. Governor Andrew Cuomo warned state residents Wednesday to expect a high death rate through July.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has repeatedly warned city hospitals are in dire need of millions of masks, hundreds of thousands of gowns and hundreds of ventilators, and could run out of supplies by April 5. For many medical workers, the breaking point has already arrived.
One New York City doctor tweeted a photo of the personal protective equipment she was handed when she arrived for her shift: a New York Yankees-branded rain poncho.
Across the Hudson River, seven hospitals in New Jersey reached capacity Wednesday and were forced to divert COVID-19 patients to other hospitals. New Jersey’s coronavirus death toll has topped 350, and Governor Phil Murphy said Wednesday his state also faces critical shortages.
Gov. Phil Murphy: “Do we have enough ventilators? No. Do we have enough PPE? No. Do we have enough beds? No. Do we have enough healthcare workers? No. Four emphatic noes.”
The governors of Pennsylvania, Florida and Mississippi issued stay-at-home directives Wednesday, while Alabama Governor Kay Ivey has refused to follow suit. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis reportedly reversed his long-standing opposition to a statewide lockdown after a phone call from Donald Trump, though the president continues to refuse pleas by public health officials to issue a nationwide remain-at-home order. Eleven states still have no such policy in place.
House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff says he’s consulting with other lawmakers on plans to form an independent commission to probe why the U.S. was so unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic. Schiff told The Washington Post the inquiry would be modeled after the 9/11 Commission and should convene once the nation is back on its feet.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti Wednesday urged all residents to use nonmedical-grade masks or facial coverings while in public. The advice came as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reconsidering its advisory that people should not wear masks — advice that was aimed at preventing a run on personal protective equipment, which is already in short supply.
The White House has rejected calls to reopen health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act ahead of the next open enrollment period in November. About half of Americans get their health insurance from their employer, and this week Federal Reserve economists said a staggering 47 million U.S. workers could be laid off due to the pandemic.
In Poughkeepsie, New York, Adam Schlesinger, co-founder of the rock band Fountains of Wayne, died Wednesday after a battle with COVID-19. Schlesinger won a Grammy Award in 2010 for a comedy collaboration with Stephen Colbert; he was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for the soundtrack to the 1996 film “That Thing You Do!” and also won three Emmys. He co-wrote songs with Rachel Bloom. He was 52 years old.
In Guayaquil, the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in Ecuador, bodies wrapped in plastic bags have been left decomposing in the streets and in empty buildings for days, as hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients and the city morgue lies full. Officially, Ecuador has the second most coronavirus cases in Latin America after Brazil, with over 2,700 reported cases and 98 deaths, but officials in Guayaquil say they’ve recovered over 400 bodies in recent days.
In the Philippines, authoritarian President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday he’s ordered soldiers to shoot to kill residents if they resist a strict lockdown on the island of Luzon.
President Rodrigo Duterte: “I will not hesitate. My orders are to the police and the military, also with the village officials, if there are troubles or occasions where there’s violence or your lives are in danger, shoot them dead.”
Duterte’s order came after residents of Manila’s Quezon City shanty town staged a protest, saying they’ve gone hungry without food or relief supplies that were promised when the lockdown began more than two weeks ago.
In Europe, COVID-19 continued its unrelenting toll as hospitals across the continent were pushed past their breaking points. Spain’s death toll topped 10,000 with a record 950 new deaths reported in a single day.
In the U.K., London’s ExCeL convention center has been converted into an enormous field hospital with plans to treat up to 4,000 COVID-19 patients. Over 2,300 people have died from the disease across the U.K., where for the first time since World War II the Wimbledon tennis tournament has been canceled.
In Italy, COVID-19 deaths have topped 13,000, but The Wall Street Journal reports Italy’s true toll is far higher because the country can’t spare the resources to test every dead body. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday models predict the United States faces a trajectory of COVID-19 deaths similar to Italy’s.
Georgia Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler is facing fresh calls to resign over revelations that her husband invested heavily in a medical supply company ahead of the stock market’s coronavirus crash. Senator Loeffler’s latest financial disclosures show her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, who’s chair of the New York Stock Exchange, bought more than $200,000 worth of shares of DuPont in late February and early March, when Loeffler had access to privileged briefings about the threat of the coronavirus. DuPont produces personal protective equipment for medical workers. In February, Senator Loeffler and her husband began dumping millions of dollars’ worth of shares in companies that have since plummeted in value. At the time, Loeffler publicly downplayed the risk of a pandemic, tweeting, “Democrats have dangerously and intentionally misled the American people on #Coronavirus readiness.”
Another Republican senator, Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr of North Carolina, faces a Senate ethics probe and an FBI investigation after he sold as much as $1.7 million worth of stocks just days before markets began tanking in February.
In Wisconsin, Democratic Governor Tony Evers has refused calls to cancel primary elections set for April 7 and will activate the Army National Guard to work at polling places, despite an explosion in coronavirus cases and 25 deaths. In Milwaukee, election officials are set to invalidate more than 450 absentee ballots that were signed without a witness’s signature, as required by law, despite statewide social distancing orders that have been in effect since March 24.
Vermont senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders pleaded with Wisconsin to delay voting, writing, “People should not be forced to put their lives on the line to vote, which is why 15 states are now following the advice of public health experts and delaying their elections.”
This comes as at least three poll workers in Florida have tested positive for COVID-19 since Florida’s March 17 primary — two in Broward County and one in Jacksonville.
Meanwhile, Democratic front-runner Joe Biden called Wednesday on the Democratic National Committee to delay its presidential nominating convention in Milwaukee, from mid-July to August.
Elected officials around the U.S. are demanding that President Trump and Republican lawmakers apologize for repeatedly calling the novel coronavirus the “Chinese virus.” Trump’s repeated use of the term came as Asian Americans across the U.S. reported a rash of hate crimes, including a number of assaults on Asian New York City subway riders. This is New York state Senator John Liu.
Sen. John Liu: “We have this long legacy, not a great legacy, of being termed the 'Yellow Peril' from over 100 years ago. And unfortunately, Trump calling this the 'Chinese virus' only perpetuates this notion of Yellow Peril.”