New York governor pleads for help as virus death toll rises

Coronavirus

Spanish Army soldiers mount a tent to be used by hospital patients during the coronavirus outbreak in Madrid, Spain, Monday, March 30, 2020. Bells tolled in Madrid’s deserted central square and flags were lowered in a day of mourning Monday as Spain raced to build field hospitals to treat an onslaught of coronavirus patients. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

NEW YORK (AP) — New York’s governor put out an urgent plea for medical volunteers and a Navy hospital ship pulled into port Monday as coronavirus deaths in the city mounted and hospitals buckled in what authorities say could be a preview of what other communities across the U.S. could soon face.

“Please come help us in New York now. We need relief,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo pleaded as the number of dead in New York State climbed past 1,200, with most of those victims dying in New York City.

He added: “Whether it’s Detroit, it’s New Orleans, it will work its way across the country.”

Elsewhere around the world, hard-hit Italy and Spain saw their death tolls climb by more than 800 each even as the World Health Organization’s emergency chief said cases in the two countries are “potentially stabilizing.” At the same time, he warned this is no time to let up on tough containment measures.

A U.S. Navy hospital ship with 1,000 beds arrived in port in New York to help relieve the crisis gripping the city. The USNS Comfort — also sent to New York City after 9/11 — will be used to treat non-coronavirus patients while packed hospitals deal with those with COVID-19.

Also, nurses and other medical professionals who have volunteered to help have begun arriving.

“Anyone who says this situation is a New York City-only situation is in a state of denial. You see this virus move across the state, you see this virus move across the nation. There is no American who is immune to this virus,” Cuomo said.

As he announced the latest death toll, he said: “That’s a lot of loss, that’s a lot of pain, that’s a lot of tears, that’s a lot of grief that people all across this state are feeling.”

Three-quarters of a million people around the world have become infected and over 35,000 have died, according to a running count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. reported over 140,000 infections and more than 2,500 deaths, with New York City the nation’s worst hot spot, but New Orleans, Detroit and other cities are also seeing alarming clusters.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease expert, warned that smaller cities are about to see cases “take off” the way they have in New York City.

“What we’ve learned from painful experience with this outbreak is that it goes along almost on a straight line, then a little acceleration, acceleration, then it goes way up,” he said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

In other developments around the world:

— Bells tolled in Madrid’s deserted central square and flags were lowered in a day of mourning as Spain raced to build field hospitals to treat an onslaught of coronavirus patients. The country’s death toll topped 7,300.

— In Japan, officials announced a new date for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics — the summer of 2021 — as a spike in reported infections fueled suspicions that the government was understating the extent of the country’s outbreak in recent weeks while it was still hoping to salvage the Summer Games.

— Moscow locked down its 12 million people as Russia braced for sweeping nationwide restrictions.

— Israel said 70-year-old Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’ is quarantining himself after an aide tested positive for the virus. And in Britain, Prince Charles, the heir to the throne who tested positive for the virus, ended his period of isolation and is in good health, his office said.

Italy’s death climbed to nearly 11,600. But in another bit of positive news, newly released numbers showed a continued slowdown in the rate of new confirmed cases and a record number of people cured in that hard-hit country.

“We are saving lives by staying at home, by maintaining social distance, by traveling less and by closing schools,” said Dr. Luca Richeldi, a lung specialist.

WHO’s emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, said the caseloads in Italy and Spain might be leveling off.

“It is our fervent hope that that is the case,” he said. “But we have to now push the virus down, and that will not happen by itself.”

At least six of Spain’s 17 regions were at their limit of intensive care unit beds, and three more were close to it, authorities said. Crews of workers were frantically building more field hospitals.

Nearly 15% of all those infected in Spain, almost 13,000 people, are health care workers, hurting hospitals’ efforts to help the tsunami of people gasping for breath.

In a sign of the mounting economic toll exacted by the virus, Macy’s said it would stop paying tens of thousands of employees thrown out of work when the chain closed its more than 500 department stores earlier this month.

The majority of its 130,000 workers will still collect health benefits, but the company said it is switching to the “absolute minimum workforce” needed to maintain basic operations.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe symptoms like pneumonia. More than 150,000 people have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins.

China on Monday reported 31 new COVID-19 cases, among them just one domestic infection. At the peak of China’s restrictions, some 700 million people were ordered to stay home, but those rules are being eased.

Japanese automaker Toyota halted production at its auto plants in Europe, but all of its factories in China resumed work on Monday.

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