US COVID-19 toll reaches 29, task force readies for tougher measures


New York: The Trump administration’s leading infectious diseases specialist on the White House coronavirus task force said that it is time for the nation to understand that going about business as usual is unviable and public health policy will have to “interfere” with natural flow of the outbreak to blunt the effects of the virus which has already killed 29 Americans.

The total number of confirmed cases in the US ballooned to more than 700. New Jersey and South Dakota reported their first coronavirus deaths Tuesday.

“As a nation, we can’t be doing the kinds of things we were doing a few months ago. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a state that has no cases or one case, you have to start taking seriously what you can do now, that if and when the infections will come and they will come. Sorry to say, sad to say they will,” said Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, at a White House briefing Tuesday.

“Keeping the workplace safe, keeping the home safe, keeping the school safe and keeping commercial establishments safe. This should be universal for the country,” Fauci said.

The US government continues to underline extra precautions for those at the highest risk: “people with immunodeficiencies at any age, people with medical conditions, and the elderly”.

Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced emergency measures in the New Rochelle suburb which has the biggest cluster of coronavirus cases in the state. New Rochelle alone accounts for 108 cases out of 173 statewide.

“The numbers are going up unabated, and we do need a special public health strategy for New Rochelle,” Cuomo said.

“Starting on Thursday for 2 wks, there will be a containment zone with a 1 mile radius around the site of the most cases in New Rochelle,” Cuomo said.

New York officials said troops will help clean public spaces and deliver food to quarantined people in a zone which extends a mile in all directions from The Young Israel of New Rochelle synagogue connected to some of the cases.

Across many states in the US, remote lessons became real this week. Teachers sent lesson plans, study guides and video lectures online. In other states where schools are still open, parents began receiving surveys to assess home readiness for online learning.

More than a dozen of the country’s leading universities switched to online-only classes, hoping to slow the spread of the virus: Ohio State University, Harvard University, Stanford University, Cornell University, New York University, Columbia University, University of Washington, American University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Barnard College, Hofstra University, Rice University and the University of California, Berkeley.

Harvard University told students not to return to campus when spring breaks ends on March 23. The US presidential campaign also entered brand new territory with both Democratic frontrunners Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden cancelling big ticket primary night events.

The Trump administration’s coronavirus messaging continues to pivot around two themes: The threat to the average American remains low but for those with underlying conditions, the potential for serious consequences is very real. Children are relatively resilient, those over 80 account for the maximum fatalities and those over 60 are getting sick more often than other age groups, the Trump task force said.

In the last four months, coronavirus has killed more than 4,000 people after it broke out in China last December and infected at least 118,000. A vaccine is at least one year away, according to Fauci.


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