Californians Ordered to Stay Home as State Department Warns Against All Foreign Travel

News Picture: Californians Ordered to Stay Home as State Department Warns Against All Foreign TravelBy Robin Foster and E.J. Mundell
HealthDay Reporters

FRIDAY, March 20, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. State Department warned Americans to avoid international travel and residents of the country's most populous state, California, were ordered to stay at home indefinitely, as national coronavirus cases climbed past 13,000.

California's order -- the most drastic measure taken yet in this country to slow down the spread of coronavirus -- will last until "further notice," the governor's office said. Residents of San Francisco and Los Angeles were issued similar orders earlier this week. The state has had at least 995 coronavirus cases and 19 deaths, CNN reported.

"There's a social contract here. People I think recognize the need to do more and to meet this moment," Gov. Gavin Newsom said in an evening news conference streamed on social media. "People will self-regulate their behavior, they'll begin to adjust and adapt as they have been quite significantly."

Hours earlier, the State Department raised its global health advisory to the highest warning level and announced that Americans should not travel outside the country and citizens abroad should either return home or stay in place as the coronavirus pandemic grows, the New York Times reported.

"If you choose to travel internationally, your travel plans may be severely disrupted, and you may be forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite time frame," the advisory warned.

Economic help

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed an $850 billion coronavirus relief package into law.

The package will provide sick leave, unemployment benefits and free coronavirus testing.

Even as the legislation became law, the drafting of a $1 trillion economic stabilization package is already underway. That package would send $500 billion in direct payments to taxpayers and provide loans to businesses, the Times reported.

Trump also invoked a wartime law on Wednesday that would allow the federal government to direct companies to produce medical supplies if needed.

As countries around the world wonder what is in store for their citizens in the coming months, one glimmer of hope emerged: For the second day since the coronavirus outbreak began, China on Friday reported no new local infections for the previous day, the Times reported.

The country of 1.4 billion is not out of the woods yet, since experts say there will have to be at least 14 consecutive days without new infections for the outbreak to be deemed over. Whether the virus will re-emerge once daily life returns to normal remains to be seen.

The good news in China stood in sharp relief to what is unfolding in Italy, as that European country passed China's death total on Thursday, the Washington Post reported.

Italy reported a total of 3,405 deaths, the Post said, while the death toll in China is 3,245. The virus has been especially deadly for the European country's large older population. The health care system has also been stretched to a breaking point, especially in northern Italy.

State, local officials continue shutdowns

Meanwhile, state and local officials across the country continued to order the temporary closings of bars and nightclubs and the placement of seating restrictions on restaurants.

On Monday, the Trump Administration ramped up its coronavirus "social distancing" advisory to now discourage gatherings of 10 or more people.

For now, the federal government has recommended less drastic measures for the rest of the country.

"This afternoon we're announcing new guidelines for every American to follow over the next 15 days," President Donald Trump said during a Monday media briefing.

In addition to advising against group gatherings of more than 10 people, Trump also discouraged eating and drinking at restaurants, bars and food courts, and any discretionary travel.

The prior advisory had discouraged gatherings of 50 or more people. However, Dr. Deborah Birx, a virologist and coronavirus task force coordinator, explained that newer models of the virus' spread now implicate people who might not even show symptoms as a significant source of "silent" infections.

A computer modeling report from researchers at Imperial College London that predicted 2 million American deaths unless stringent social distancing measures were enacted may have convinced U.S health officials to take the extraordinary step, the Times reported.

Progress on testing

According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, all Americans need to limit their contact with others to slow the rate of new infections.

"The worst is yet ahead for us," Fauci warned, and the crisis could continue into the summer. "It's how we respond [now] to that challenge that will determine what the ultimate endpoint is going to be."

State officials across America had already begun to enact even tougher restrictions to try to slow the spread of coronavirus, as the country's case count reached 13,000, with 195 deaths, CNN reported.

The president also said his administration is doubling down on testing for COVID-19. Experts, including Fauci, have already called the initial 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 last Friday.

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

On Thursday, the U.S. Army prepared mobile military hospitals for deployment in major cities, and motorists waited in long lines for nurses to swab their nostrils at new U.S. drive-thru testing sites, the Associated Press reported.

Changing lives

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

At least 37 states have shuttered all public schools, CNN reported. Meanwhile, Broadway went dark, Disney World and Disneyland were closed, March Madness was canceled, and most professional sports leagues postponed their seasons.

Cases in Washington state had spiked to 1,376 by Friday. 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 538 cases there could be the largest in the nation, and National Guard troops have been ordered to help clean public spaces and deliver food during the containment period, the AP reported.

New York, Washington state and California now have the highest number of coronavirus cases in the United States, the Times reported. New York has 2,382, Washington state now has 1,376 cases and California has 995.

Meanwhile, officials in Florida closed several popular beaches in the state on Thursday, as young spring breakers ignored social distancing guidelines and partied with abandon on the sand. That state now has 432 cases, with nine deaths.

As of Friday, the WHO had reported 209,839 cases of coronavirus in 168 countries and territories, including over 8,778 deaths.

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 lockdown of the entire country, some 60 million people, as it tries to contain a major outbreak of COVID-19. By Tuesday morning, the case count in that country had passed 41,000, CNBC News reported.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the country's lockdown will have to be extended past April 3, CNBC reported.

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References
SOURCES: March 16, 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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