US nears China’s virus death toll as New York calls for help

Hospital ship docks in New York.

The mounting death toll from the virus outbreak in the United States had it poised Tuesday to overtake China’s grim toll of 3,300 deaths, with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo saying up to 1 million more healthcare workers were needed. “Please come help us,” he urged.

Hard-hit Italy and Spain have already overtaken China and now account for more than half of the nearly 38,000 COVID-19 deaths worldwide, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

But the World Health Organization warned Tuesday that while attention has shifted to epicenters in Western Europe and North America, the coronavirus pandemic was far from over in Asia.

“This is going to be a long-term battle and we cannot let down our guard,” said Dr Takeshi Kasai, the WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific. “We need every country to keep responding according to their local situation.”

In Japan, the countdown clocks were reset and ticking again for the Tokyo Olympics after organizers announced new dates following the postponement from this summer. The clocks read 479 days to go, with the games now scheduled to kick off on July 23, 2021.

In New York City, Cuomo and health officials warned Monday that the crisis unfolding there is just a preview of what other U.S. communities could soon face. New York State’s death toll climbed by more than 250 people in a day Monday to more than 1,200, most of them in the city.

“We’ve lost over one thousand New Yorkers,” Cuomo said. “To me, we’re beyond staggering already.”

Even before the governor’s appeal, close to 80,000 former nurses, doctors and other professionals were stepping up to volunteer, and a Navy hospital ship had arrived with 1,000 beds to relieve pressure on overwhelmed hospitals.

More than 235 million people - about two of every three Americans - live in the 33 states where governors have declared statewide orders or recommendations to stay home.

In California, officials put out a similar call for medical volunteers as coronavirus hospitalizations doubled over the last four days and the number of patients in intensive care tripled.

“Challenging times are ahead for the next 30 days, and this is a very vital 30 days,” President Donald Trump told reporters Monday. “The more we dedicate ourselves today, the more quickly we will emerge on the other side of the crisis.”

The military hospital ship - 1,000-bed USNS Comfort - docked at a Manhattan pier as more American states enforced stay-at-home orders. The 894 foot-long vessel, which also has space for a dozen operating rooms, was greeted by cheering crowds after departing Norfolk, Virginia on Saturday. The Comfort will care for New Yorkers requiring intensive care unrelated to the coronavirus, easing the burden on a hospital network overwhelmed by an influx of COVID-19 patients.

New York opened a temporary emergency hospital in the Javits convention centre with 2,900 beds on Monday. A field hospital in Central Park is due to open Tuesday. Four other sites have also been approved to house patients discharged from hospitals to make way for residents suffering from the novel coronavirus.

Flights run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency began arriving at New York's JFK Airport as Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city needed 400 more ventilators by the end of the week, describing next Sunday as “D-Day.” The flights, part of 50 planned under “Project Airbridge,” are delivering millions of masks, gowns and thermometers for hospitals.

Ford Motor Co said on Monday it would produce 50,000 ventilators over the next 100 days at a plant in Michigan in cooperation with General Electric's healthcare unit, and can then build 30,000 per month as needed to treat patients afflicted with the coronavirus.

Ford said the simplified ventilator design, which is licensed by GE Healthcare from Florida-based Airon Corp and has been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration, can meet the needs of most COVID-19 patients and relies on air pressure without the need for electricity.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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