NEW YORK: Nearly one in three Americans was under orders on Sunday (Mar 22) to stay home to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic as Ohio, Louisiana and Delaware became the latest states to enact broad restrictions, along with the city of Philadelphia.
The three states join New York, California, Illinois, Connecticut and New Jersey, home to 101 million Americans combined, as cases nationwide topped 33,000, with more than 415 dead, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.
“Every piece of evidence that I can lay my hands on indicates that we’re at an absolutely crucial time in this war and what we do now will make all the difference in the world,” said Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. “What we do now will slow this invader. It will slow this invader so our healthcare system … will have time to treat casualties.”
In the US Senate, partisan disagreement blocked a massive coronavirus response bill from advancing, with Democrats saying the Republican measure focused too heavily on helping corporations. But Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer said he believed differences could be overcome in the next 24 hours.
Ohio has 351 cases and three deaths, while Louisiana has 837 cases and 20 deaths, several in a senior-care facility. Louisiana has the third-highest number of cases per capita and saw a 10-fold increase in cases in the past week, Governor John Bel Edwards said.
Ohio’s order will go into effect at midnight EDT on Monday and stay in effect until Apr 6. Louisiana’s order goes into effect at 5pm CDT on Monday and lasts through Apr 12. Delaware’s order starts at 8am EDT on Tuesday.
Dallas County in Texas, home to more than 2.5 million people, and Philadelphia, with 1.6 million residents, told non-essential businesses on Sunday to close and residents to stay home.
In Kentucky, non-essential businesses must close by 8pm EDT on Monday but authorities stopped short of ordering residents to stay home.
Republican US Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky on Sunday became the first member of the Senate to announce he had tested positive for the coronavirus. At least two members of the House of Representatives previously said they tested positive.
Around the globe, billions are adapting to a new reality, with countries such as Italy, Spain and France on lockdown and several South American nations taking similar measures to try to stay ahead of the contagion, as global cases exceeded 325,000 and deaths topped 14,000.
The mayor of New York City, the epicentre of the nation’s coronavirus epidemic, on Sunday described the outbreak as the biggest domestic crisis since the Great Depression and called for the US military to mobilise to help keep the healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed.
“If we don’t get more ventilators in the next 10 days, people will die who don’t have to die,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio, as the nation’s most populous city saw COVID-19 cases top 9,600 and deaths climb to 63.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urged the federal government to take over the acquisition of medical supplies so states do not have to compete with each other for desperately needed resources.
Help is not coming quickly enough, Cuomo said.
“Time matters, minutes count, and this is literally a matter of life and death,” he said. “At the same time, there is not going to be chaos, there is not going to be anarchy. Life is going to go on. Different. But life is going to go on.”
Cuomo gave New York City officials 24 hours to come up with a plan to deal with residents still congregating in parks and other places and not practising social distancing.
De Blasio said New York City was not getting needed medical supplies from the federal government to contend with the rapid spread of the sometimes deadly illness.
Hospitals are scrambling for protective equipment for healthcare workers and for ventilators as they brace for a wave of patients who will need help breathing as severe cases often lead to pneumonia and decreased lung function.
Over the past week, US President Donald Trump’s administration has been pushing for aggressive steps to stem the economic hit, after Trump spent several weeks downplaying the virus’ risks.
Trump said on Sunday the National Guard would help New York, California and Washington state respond to the coronavirus crisis. He said the US hospital ship Mercy would be in Los Angeles within a week and provided detailed numbers for the first time on the types and quantities of medical supplies sent to outbreak centres.
Vice President Mike Pence said 254,000 Americans had been tested for the coronavirus and 10 per cent were positive.
“This is going to be the greatest crisis domestically since the Great Depression,” de Blasio told CNN, referring to the economic crisis of the 1930s. “This is why we need a full-scale mobilisation of the American military.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott lamented the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) available for health workers. He said they were seeing delivery dates in July.
“That’s not going to work. We need delivery dates tomorrow,” Abbott said at a briefing. “We have ready money today for anybody who can sell us PPE. We’ll cut you a cheque on the spot.”