States Begin to Close Bars, Restaurants as U.S. Coronavirus Cases Pass 3,400

News Picture: States Begin to Close Bars, Restaurants as U.S. Coronavirus Cases Pass 3,400By Robin Foster and E.J. Mundell
HealthDay Reporters

MONDAY, March 16, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- State officials across America began to enact even tougher restrictions to try to slow the spread of coronavirus on Sunday, as the country's case count reached at least 3,400, with at least 65 deaths.

Illinois, Ohio, Massachusetts, Washington state, California and New York City all enacted measures that essentially force bars, clubs and restaurants to close, the Associated Press reported.

On Sunday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that no gatherings of 50 people or more take place for the next eight weeks, while Vice President Mike Pence said during a media briefing that the agency will issue new national guidance on Monday for restaurants, bars and other gathering spots.

"For a while, life is not going to be the way it used to be in the United States," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN on Sunday. "We have to just accept that if we want to do what's best for the American public."

On Saturday, the Trump administration expanded a 30-day ban on travel from Europe to include residents from the United Kingdom and Ireland, beginning late Monday.

And in a Saturday press conference, Pence hinted that restrictions on domestic travel in coronavirus hotspots might come as well.

A "broad range of measures" are under consideration, Pence told reporters. "But no decisions have been made yet," USA Today reported.

Trump himself took a test for coronavirus after having come into contact with an infected individual at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida earlier this week. The negative test result was announced on Saturday.

On Friday, Trump took a step many political and health care experts had been urging him to do, declaring the U.S. coronavirus crisis a national emergency.

Hours later, the House passed a bill worked out with the Trump administration that will direct billions toward helping sick workers and steadying a faltering economy. The bill would allow for two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of family and medical leave for those affected by the crisis, The New York Times reported.

Aid to states

The announcement of a national emergency, nearly unprecedented in American history, immediately frees up more than $50 billion in federal funds to help states control the spread of COVID-19 before it overwhelms hospitals and health care systems.

"Through a very collective action and shared sacrifice and national determination, we will overcome the threat of the virus," Trump said at a White House press briefing, flanked by top officials engaged in the coronavirus fight.

As well as delivering a huge funding boost, the national emergency declaration also greatly broadens the powers of the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Alex Azar. The HHS can now bypass regulations that might otherwise hem in a hospital's ability to reach peak performance as critically ill cases flood in.

The president also said his administration is doubling down on testing for COVID-19. Experts, including Fauci, have already called the slow rollout of such tests a system failure.

Now, there's "a new partnership with the private sector to vastly accelerate and test for the coronavirus," Trump said Friday.

He said drug giant Roche received fast-track approval for a test that could soon boost supplies by 500,000 units. Other deals are in place that could raise the national test kit supply by 5 million test units "within a month," Trump said.

Beyond that, Trump and health officials said that Google will soon create a new website that will let any American describe his or her symptoms online and, if applicable, be directed to the nearest drive-through testing site.

Stores such as Walmart, CVS and Walgreens will set aside part of their parking lots for drive-through testing.

Crisis is changing lives

In the meantime, the public lives of Americans have come to a halt, as the coronavirus pandemic prompted officials across the country to close, cancel or postpone any event or activity that might foster the spread of COVID-19.

At least a dozen states have shuttered all public schools. Meanwhile, Broadway went dark, Disney World and Disneyland were closed, March Madness was canceled, and most professional sports leagues postponed their seasons, the Washington Post reported.

As of Monday morning, there were at least 3,482 coronavirus cases in 49 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Washington, D.C. At least 65 people have died. West Virginia remained the only state without any confirmed cases, CNN reported.

Cases in Washington state spiked to 769 by Sunday evening. In New York state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has turned a New York City suburb into a "containment zone." Schools and houses of worship in the city of New Rochelle will be closed for two weeks. A cluster of more than 196 cases there could be the largest in the nation, and National Guard troops were ordered to help clean public spaces and deliver food during the containment period, the AP reported.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said all gatherings of more than 250 in that state should be postponed.

California, Washington state and New York now have the highest number of coronavirus cases in the United States, the Times reported. Washington state now has 769 cases, California has 335, and New York has 729.

Washington state continued to contend with an outbreak involving the Life Care Center nursing home in the town of Kirkland, CNN reported. State officials said a total of 42 people have now died from COVID-19 infection, with most either living at or connected with the nursing home.

Cases spread worldwide

As of Monday morning, the WHO had reported more than 164,837 cases of coronavirus worldwide, including over 6,470 deaths, the vast majority of which have occurred in China, where the outbreak began.

Internationally, hopes of containing the coronavirus are fading fast.

In Asia, South Korea and Iran are each battling major outbreaks of COVID-19. In Europe, Italy has ordered a travel lockdown of the entire country, some 60 million people, as it tries to contain a major outbreak of COVID-19. By Saturday morning, the case count in that country had topped 17,000, the Times reported.

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References
SOURCES: March 13, 2020, media briefing with: President Donald Trump; March 9, 2020, media briefing with Vice President Mike Pence; U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Anthony Fauci, M.D., director, U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; CNN; USA Today; Washington Post; Associated Press; The New York Times
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