The coronavirus pandemic has passed its landmark moment, as over one million people worldwide have tested positive for the disease, according to figures from multiple sources including news agency AFP and the John Hopkins University. More than 51,485 people have died worldwide from the virus.

Now, the U.S. is the most-affected country, surpassing China. In Europe, Italy, Spain, Germany and France were hit the hardest, with each having more than 40,000 cases.

By April 1, close to half the world’s population – most of North America, Europe and India – had been ordered to stay at home, in hopes of slowing or stopping the spread of the contagion.

In many places, the rapidly spreading virus has overwhelmed local healthcare systems. Doctors have struggled with shortages of hospital space and medical equipment, including testing kits and protective gear.

China said it had turned the tide on the spread of the coronavirus by late March, as the number of new domestic cases decreased significantly, prompting officials to gradually ease travel restrictions in Hubei.

The U.S. leads the world with more than 234,000 confirmed cases. More than 5,600 Americans have died from the virus.

U.S. jobless claims soared to record 6.65 million, according to data released by the U.S. Labor Department Thursday morning.

Spain

Coronavirus, officially COVID-19, cases in Spain rose above 100,000 as it recorded its biggest one-day death toll from the outbreak on Wednesday.

The country records world’s highest number of COVID-19 deaths in a day. The death toll has climbed by 950 to more than 10,000.

The country now has 10,003 deaths and more than 110,000 infections.

UK

The United Kingdom saw its biggest daily jump in deaths as the overall toll surpassed 2,000.

Britons cite ‘shocking’ lack of testing and advice after landing back in U.K.

Britons returning to the UK from abroad have lambasted the “shocking” lack of testing and medical advice upon arriving back on home soil following the coronavirus outbreak.

Some passengers told the PA news agency other countries appeared to be taking the COVID-19 pandemic much more seriously, with medical questionnaires and health checks at land borders and travel terminals.

Canada

Canada Officials announced Thursday that there have been more than 10,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Canada, with 127 deaths.

Provinces and territories around the country have ramped up their testing, leading to an increase in cases, but also delays in results that may not reflect the most recent measures that have been applied by officials and citizens, such as social distancing.

Germany’s infections rise to 79,696

Germany’s coronavirus infections have risen to 79,696, with 1,017 deaths, statistics from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Friday. Cases rose 6,174 from the previous day, while the death toll climbed by 145, the tally showed.

Lessons from California and Washington

A few bright spots have started coming from various sources including internet-connected thermometers; smartphone GPS data; a study by private researchers in Bellevue, Wash.; state-by-state projections from the University of Washington; and reports from hospitals in the San Francisco Bay Area.

All of this new information points to the same hopeful, if tentative, conclusion. In areas of U.S. that caught the coronavirus early in its trajectory — and quickly implemented the sort of strict, sweeping social distancing measures recommended by public health officials — the curve may be starting to bend. The virus may be starting to spread more slowly. Staying home may be starting to work.

Louisiana is tipped to be the next coronavirus epicenter

The U.S. state of Louisiana is poised to become the next epicenter of the coronavirus crisis, White House officials said Thursday, citing new data that shows that 26 per cent of the tests for coronavirus in that state in recent days have come back positive.

That is the second-highest rate of infection in the U.S., behind New York and New Jersey, where 35 percent of coronavirus tests have been positive.

10 million Americans lost jobs

An AP report said: Nearly 10 million Americans have lost their jobs and applied for unemployment benefits in the past two weeks — a stunning record high that reflects the near-complete shutdown of the U.S. economy.

Job losses related to the coronavirus are sure to rise further in the coming weeks, with economists saying the U.S. unemployment rate could reach as high as 15%, well above the 10% peak during the Great Recession. As recently as February, the unemployment rate was just 3.5%, a 50-year low. For those who have suddenly lost jobs, it’s a difficult time.

Thailand

Thai inmates sparked jail riot, and set prison ablaze over fears of coronavirus.

U.S. Navy captain fired after pleading for coronavirus help

U.S. Navy Capt. Brett Crozier was relieved for loss of confidence Thursday. Four days earlier, the captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt pleaded for help for the crew of the nuclear-powered ship struggling with the coronavirus. Around a quarter of the 4,800 crew members onboard were tested for COVID-19 and 93 were positive.

Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly reported Thursday that there are presently 114 coronavirus cases aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

“I can tell you with great certainty there’s going to be more. It will probably be in the hundreds,” he told reporters at the Pentagon.

The updated case numbers followed an announcement that Modly had decided to relieve Capt. Brett Crozier, the commanding officer aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, due to a loss of confidence.

The acting secretary of the Navy said Thursday that he suspects the number of coronavirus cases aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt will eventually be “in the hundreds.”

The ship is currently in Guam, where the Navy is in the process of removing thousands of sailors from the ship and testing the entire crew.

Brett Crozier, the ship’s CO, wrote a letter warning that “the spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.” He called for the removal of the majority of the crew from the ship as soon as possible. “Sailors do not need to die,” he wrote.

The letter leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle and then quickly made headlines everywhere.

The acting Navy secretary accused the CO of mishandling information by distributing the letter outside the chain of command in a way that made it susceptible to being leaked. He said that Crozier exercised “poor judgment” and that his letter caused unnecessary panic among sailors and military families.

U.S. nurses union blasts lack of preparedness

NBC News said: The National Nurses Union, which represents 10,000 registered nurses at 19 U.S. hospitals managed by HCA Healthcare in California, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada and Texas, is demanding that the hospital chain provide optimal personal protective equipment (PPE) for nurses and other staff.

Nurses at HCA’s Mission Hospital in Asheville, N.C., will deliver a petition to hospital managers with their concerns about hospital preparedness in the battle the coronavirus.

Some nurses at HCA hospitals have reported that they have had to work without proper protective equipment and are told to unsafely reuse masks.

Nurses at Central Florida Regional Hospital in Sanford, Florida, said they were told they could not wear masks while working because it “scared the patients,” according to Jean Ross, a registered nurse and president of National Nurses United.

“Protecting our patients is our highest priority, but it becomes much harder when we don’t have the safe protections which puts us in danger of becoming infected,” said Angela Davis, a registered nurse who works in a unit dedicated to treating coronavirus patients at Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo. “If we are no longer able to be at the bedside, who will be there to care for our patients?”

The union president said HCA Healthcare can afford to properly prepare for the pandemic, noting that over the past decade, the hospital chain has made more than $23 billion.

“For the wealthiest hospital corporation in the United States to show such disregard for the health and safety of its caregivers, is disgraceful and unconscionable,” Ross said.

Two years before coronavirus, the U.S. CDC warned of a coming pandemic

Two years ago, some of the nation’s top public health officials gathered in an auditorium at Emory University in Atlanta to commemorate the 1918 influenza pandemic — also known as “the Spanish Flu” — which had killed as many as 40 million people as it swept the globe.

Among the organizers of the conference was Dr. Daniel Jernigan, who heads the Centers for Disease Control’s flu division. He later hosted a webinar entitled “100 Years Since 1918: Are We Ready for the Next Pandemic?” Viewed today, that presentation comes across as a disturbing preview of what the entire world is facing in 2020, with close to a million people infected with the coronavirus and more than 44,000 dead.

Dr. Fauci’s security expanded as infectious disease expert faces threats in the U.S.

Security detail for Dr. Anthony Fauci, the 79-year-old infectious disease expert who has become a calm, reassuring foil to President Trump at coronavirus briefings, has been expanded amid threats..

Trump administration ended pandemic early-warning program to detect coronaviruses

A Los Angeles Times report said on April 2, 2020:

Two months before the novel coronavirus is thought to have begun its deadly advance in Wuhan, China, the Trump administration ended a $200-million pandemic early-warning program aimed at training scientists in China and other countries to detect and respond to such a threat.

The project, launched by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2009, identified 1,200 different viruses that had the potential to erupt into pandemics, including more than 160 novel coronaviruses. The initiative, called PREDICT, also trained and supported staff in 60 foreign laboratories — including the Wuhan lab that identified SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Field work ceased when the funding ran out in September, and organizations that worked on the PREDICT program laid off dozens of scientists and analysts, said Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, a key player in the program.

On Wednesday, USAID granted an emergency extension to the program, issuing $2.26 million over the next six months to send experts who will help foreign labs squelch the pandemic. But program leaders say the funding will do little to further the initiative’s original mission.

“Look at the name: Our efforts were to predict this before it happens. That’s the part of the program that was exciting — and that’s the part I’m worried about,” Daszak said.

“It’s absolutely critical that we don’t drop the idea of a large-scale, proactive, predictive program that tries to catch pandemics before they happen. Cutting a program that could in any way reduce the risk of things like COVID-19 happening again is, by any measure, shortsighted,” he added.

It is unclear whether another five-year grant would have dulled the impact of the current pandemic. But the Trump administration has come under increased criticism for its past moves to downgrade global health security, including proposals to slash funding to science agencies and the elimination of the National Security Council’s key global health post.

A spokesperson for USAID said PREDICT was “just one component of USAID’s global health security efforts and accounted for less than 20% of our global health security funding.” He also said a new initiative to stop the spillover of viruses from animals to humans is scheduled to be awarded in August.

The PREDICT project, which operated on two five-year funding cycles that formally concluded last September, enrolled both epidemiologists and wildlife veterinarians to examine the types of interactions between animals and humans that researchers suspect led to the current outbreak of COVID-19.

The pandemic “didn’t surprise us, unfortunately,” said Jonna Mazet, executive director of the One Health Institute in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, who served as the global director of PREDICT for a decade. “The work had been ongoing for some time. And when the crisis hits, everybody stands up and takes notice and says, ‘OK, we believe you.’”

The PREDICT project, launched in response to the 2005 H5N1 “bird flu” scare, gathered specimens from more than 10,000 bats and 2,000 other mammals in search of dangerous viruses. They detected about 1,200 viruses that could spread from wild animals to humans, signaling pandemic potential. More than 160 of them were novel coronaviruses, much like SARS-CoV-2.

They also took blood samples from people in rural China, and learned that, in living among wildlife, they had been exposed to coronaviruses — a clear sign that, if those viruses spread easily among humans, they could take off. That “raised the red flag,” said Mazet.

“Coronaviruses were jumping easily across species lines and were ones to watch for epidemics and pandemics,” she said.

The program also trained nearly 7,000 people across medical and agricultural sectors in 30 countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East to help them detect deadly new viruses on their own. One of those labs was the Wuhan Institute of Virology — the Chinese lab that quickly identified SARS-CoV-2, Mazet said.

The Wuhan lab received USAID funding for equipment, and PREDICT coordinators connected the scientists there with researchers in other countries in order to synchronize tracking of novel viruses before SARS-CoV-2.

The project’s second funding cycle concluded on Sept. 30, 2019, less than two months before the new coronavirus probably began spreading. It was granted a zero-dollar six-month extension — through March 2020 — to write up final reports.

Dennis Carroll, a widely respected scientist who headed USAID’s emerging threats division, oversaw the initiative for its duration, but retired around the time it was shut down. Carroll did not respond to an inquiry from The Times, but told the New York Times last year that by January 2019, the program had “essentially collapsed into hibernation,” and that its conclusion was due to “the ascension of risk-averse bureaucrats.”

Other members of the consortium included Columbia University’s Center for Infection and Immunity and several institutes that manage major U.S. zoos.

Earlier this year, as COVID-19 took off, U.S. lawmakers expressed frustration over the program’s end.

“Addressing and preventing the spread of coronavirus and potential pandemic disease outbreaks is a serious matter that requires adequate resources for and cooperation between experts throughout the federal government,” Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Angus King wrote in a letter to USAID’s administrator earlier this year, asking for details on the decision.

On Wednesday, the PREDICT program was extended through September to offer emergency technical assistance to foreign labs battling the coronavirus pandemic. To date, PREDICT-supported labs in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia are actively testing for coronavirus cases, Daszak said, and he has been sending reagents and other supplies to assist them.

Meanwhile, in Rwanda, scientists who had been trained in the PREDICT program triggered early social distancing measures, Mazet said. “I do think that what we were doing has changed the outcomes for a lot of countries,” she said.

“But unfortunately, not our own,” she added.

Daszak said he is eager to further examine the hundreds of wildlife samples collected during the PREDICT initiative over the years, looking to identify whether any of them could have been intermediate hosts for the virus currently sweeping the globe.

But with the limited budget and timeline, efforts to continue in-depth field work under PREDICT will be minimal. Most of the extension funding will be focused on squelching the current outbreak, not preventing the next.

“It’s common sense to know your enemy,” Daszak said. “Instead, we’re all hiding inside our houses as we wait around for a vaccine — that’s not a good global strategy to battling a dangerous virus.”

The U.S. economy is entering the deepest recession on record

Economists at Bank of America Global Research believe the broader economic downturn we’re entering will result in the worst recession in modern U.S. history.

“The recession appears to be deeper and more prolonged than we were led to believe just 14 days ago when we last updated our forecasts, not just in the U.S. but globally as well,” said BofA economists led by Michelle Meyer.

“We now believe that there will be three consecutive quarters of GDP contraction with the US economy shrinking 7% in 1Q, 30% in 2Q and 1% in 3Q. We expect this to be followed by a pop in growth in 4Q. We forecast the cumulative decline in GDP to be 10.4% and this will be the deepest recession on record, nearly five times more severe than the post-war average.”

In 2008, the economy experienced a cumulative recessionary decline in GDP of 4%, the most since World War II. BofA is expecting the 2020 recession will be more than twice as severe in terms of the total GDP decline.

Bank of America expects that up to 20 million people will lose their jobs through the third quarter with the unemployment rate potentially peaking north of 15%.

“The shock is unlike anything we have experienced before with part of the economy effectively put into an induced coma,” BofA adds.

“The pain is sudden and acute. But we think there is a recovery on the other side. The first step is to solve the public health crisis and stop the spread of COVID-19. The next step is to slowly open the economy with businesses returning and people going back to work.”

Bank of America expects that GDP will pop 30% in the fourth quarter. But the firm still believes “this will be a slow recovery overall as many workers will be displaced and businesses adapt to a period of lost revenue.”

And indeed, just under 70% of GDP growth comes from consumer spending. Since the fourth quarter of 2013, no single quarter has seen U.S. consumer spending rise less than 3%.

But this trend looks set to come to an end.

Using its proprietary data that tracks spending from Bank of America debit and credit cardholders, Meyer and her team note that by the end of March about 20% of consumer spending categories had declined more than 40%.

“It makes sense that the consumer cut back [in March],” Meyer and team write.

BofA also notes that capturing the extent of the economic fallout from the coronavirus poses several challenges.

That is particularly true given the speed and magnitude of the changes mandated by lawmakers and the lag on which economic data is reported.

Cruise ship allowed to dock in Florida

The Dutch cruise ships holding sick passengers will now be allowed to dock in Port Everglades, Fla. Holland America, the company holding the Zaandam and Rotterdam boats, reached a deal with Florida officials Thursday.

Trump threatens 3M over facemasks

U.S. President Donald Trump slammed 3M in a tweet late on Thursday after earlier announcing he was invoking the Defense Production Act to get the company to produce facemasks.


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