British virus crisis deepens, while New York sees positives
NEW YORK: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remained in intensive care Tuesday for treatment of his coronavirus illness, while authorities in New York hoped that a leveling off of deaths and new hospitalizations would hold and signal that the epicenter of the US outbreak had turned a corner.
Johnson was moved to the intensive care unit of a London hospital after his symptoms dramatically worsened Monday, just a day after he was admitted for what were said to be routine tests. The 55-year-old, the world’s first known head of government to fall ill with the virus, was conscious and did not immediately need to be put on a ventilator, his office said.
Britain's foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, has been designated to take over should Johnson become incapacitated. A grave-looking Raab said Monday that Johnson was “in safe hands” at the hospital, which is treating many virus patients.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the first, faint signs the outbreak there may be nearing its peak, while making clear that it’s no time to relax social distancing restrictions.
“The numbers look like it may be turning,” Cuomo said, though he warned that the crisis was far from over.
As deaths in the US neared 11,000, with more than 365,000 confirmed infections, President Donald Trump said mitigation efforts were showing signs of slowing the spread of the virus.
The nation’s top infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, was cautiously optimistic, saying that in New York, “what we have been doing has been working.”
Stocks jumped on Wall Street and around the world on hopes that the pandemic could be slowing. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained more than 1,600 points, or nearly 8%, on Monday and the rally continued in Asia on Tuesday.
China on Tuesday reported no new deaths from the coronarivus over the past 24 hours. Numbers of daily new deaths in the country that gave rise to the global pandemic have been hovering in the single digits for weeks, hitting just one on several occasions.
The number of new coronavirus cases were also dropping in the European hotspots of Italy and Spain.
Italy had its smallest one-day increase of new COVID-19 cases in early three weeks on Monday. It also saw a drop for the third straight day in intensive care beds occupied by infected patients.
Premier Giuseppe Conte promised Italians that they will soon “reap the fruit of these sacrifices” in personal liberties, though he declined to say when a nationwide lockdown would be lifted.
Italy has the world’s highest death toll — over 16,500 — but the pressure on intensive care units in the north has eased so much that it’s no longer airlifting patients to other regions.
In Spain, deaths and new infections dropped again on Monday. The health ministry reported 637 new deaths, the lowest toll in 13 days, for a total of over 13,000 dead. New infections were also the lowest in two weeks.
It shows Spain is entering “a new phase of the battle,” said Transport, Mobility and Urban Affairs Minister José Luis Ábalos. But “this new phase does not mean we can let down our guard.”
Outbreaks in other places moved in the opposite direction: France recorded its highest 24-hour death toll since the epidemic began — 833. Japan considered a state of emergency for Tokyo and other areas because of soaring infections in the country with the world’s third-largest economy and its oldest population.
Deaths in Britain climbed by more than 400 on Monday, for a total of nearly 5,400. Sunday was especially bleak, with more than 600 deaths — more than Italy recorded.
The deterioration of Johnson’s health took many in Britain by surprise. Hours earlier, he had tweeted that he was in good spirits and thanked the National Health Service for taking care of him and others with the disease.
“On the advice of my doctor, I went into hospital for some routine tests as I’m still experiencing coronavirus symptoms,” Johnson said in the tweet. He said he was keeping in touch with his team “as we work together to fight this virus and keep everyone safe.”
Worldwide, more than 1.3 million people have been confirmed infected and nearly 75,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. The true numbers are certainly much higher, because of limited testing, different ways nations count the dead and deliberate underreporting by some governments.
For most people, the virus causes mild to moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. But for some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause pneumonia. More than 277,000 people have recovered worldwide.
The latest data suggests social distancing appears to be working in some countries, and better than expected.
One of the main models on the outbreak, the University of Washington’s, is now projecting about 82,000 US deaths through early August, or 12 percent fewer than previously forecast, with the highest number of daily deaths occurring April 16. The model relies on much more robust data from Italy and Spain and from hospitals.
The number of dead in New York state rose past 4,700. The state has averaged just under 600 deaths daily for the past four days. Though horrific, the somewhat steady daily totals were seen as a positive sign. Cuomo also reported that the number of new people entering hospitals daily has dropped, as has the number of critically ill patients needing ventilators.
But the health care system is still strained. To help, Trump said a military hospital ship sent to New York City can now accept COVID-19 patients. Cuomo tweeted that the USNS Comfort would add 1,000 beds staffed by federal personnel, providing “much-needed relief.”
Cuomo also ordered schools and nonessential businesses to remain closed until the end of the month and doubled fines for rule breakers to $1,000.
A report from a federal watchdog agency found that three out of four US hospitals surveyed are already treating patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. Some places, like Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., are predicting the peak won’t come until May or well into summer.