The United States on Saturday surpassed Italy for the most confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the world, a figure experts have called ‘an underestimation.’
The news comes as Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said he hopes for “a real degree of normality” by November.
The nation’s governors have asked Congress for $500 billion to rescue local services imperiled by the economic crisis and stabilize state budgets decimated by the downturn.
States across the country have shelled out billions to pay for the public health response at the same time as the economic standstill sent state revenue sources into a nose-dive.
In a joint statement on behalf of the National Governors Association, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D, and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, R, said the most recent federal rescue package contained no money to help states balance the books in general.
The Cares Act included $150 billion for states, but there are restrictions on how the money can be used, and governors say it is not nearly enough. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has called the $150 billion “a down payment.”
Some states, such as Pennsylvania, have already started laying off workers. New York predicted a $10 billion hole, and Maryland is facing as $2.8 billion one. Unlike the federal government, cash-strapped states cannot run deficits and must slash budgets when revenue falls short.
Cuomo and Hogan said the half-trillion dollars states need is in addition to any rescue package for local governments.
“In the absence of unrestricted fiscal support of at least $500 billion from the federal government, states will have to confront the prospect of significant reductions to critically important services all across this country, hampering public health, the economic recovery, and — in turn — our collective effort to get people back to work,” the governors wrote in a letter released Saturday.
The letter follows a Thursday call between governors and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Hogan spokesperson Michael Ricci said.
New York City public schools, the nation’s largest school district, will remain closed for the rest of the 2019-2020 academic year, Mayor Bill de Blasio, D, said Saturday. The district’s 1.1 million students will finish the term remotely.
De Blasio called the move “painful” but said it “clearly will help us save lives.”
The city’s choice follows similar moves in at least 19 states and three U.S. territories. School closures of any duration have affected roughly 55.1 million students, according to data tallied by Education Week.
New York has been the state hit hardest by the coronavirus outbreak, with New York City disproportionately affected. The more than 5,600 deaths in the city account for roughly one-third of all confirmed U.S. deaths from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.
In London, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, “continues to make very good progress” in his recovery from COVID-19 at a hospital, a 10 Downing Street spokesperson said on Saturday.
Johnson, 55, left intensive care on Thursday after spending three nights there. He remains in a regular ward at St. Thomas’ Hospital. His office has said he is in the early phase of his recovery and has been able to do “short walks, between periods of rest.”
It is unclear how long Johnson’s recovery will take. British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is standing in for the prime minister.’
The National Health Service reported Saturday that 823 people in the United Kingdom had died in the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s death toll to 8,937. Nineteen were front-line health-care workers.
Sarah Gilbert, a vaccinology professor at Oxford University, told the Times of London in an article published Saturday that the vaccine her team developed could probably be ready in the fall “if everything goes perfectly.”
Matt Hancock, Britain’s health secretary, told Sky News, “I know quite a lot about the Oxford project, and it is really great to see some hope, especially on the front page of the newspapers.”
The Oxford team is among dozens around the world — including ones at U.S. firms Moderna and Inovio — working nonstop to develop a vaccine for COVID-19.
The vaccine developed by Gilbert’s team will begin human trials within two weeks. Gilbert told the Times of London that “nobody can promise it’s going to work,” but “there’s a high chance that it will work, based on other things that we have done with this type of vaccine.”
Spain, which trails only Italy and the United States in its number of coronavirus-related fatalities, on Saturday recorded its lowest 24-hour death toll since March 23.
The 510 new deaths represented a 15 percent decrease from the previous day and brought the nation’s total number of deaths to 16,353, health officials said.
Spain also reported 4,830 additional cases of the virus, a continuation of the country’s decreasing numbers of daily cases. Officials there have tallied 161,852 total cases, second only to the 501,615 in the United States.
The capital, the country’s hardest-hit region in the pandemic, added 112 new deaths in the past 24 hours. The new fatalities included a 57-year-old surgical nurse from the intensive care unit of the Severo Ochoa hospital.
More than 24,000 health-care workers in Spain have been infected by the coronavirus, and 27 have died. Doctors and nurses had decried a lack of testing and a shortage of protective gear at the beginning of the crisis, which they said has forced them to work without knowing if they were infected.
In Iran, President Hassan Rouhani announced the resumption of “low-risk” jobs across the country starting Saturday except in the capital, Tehran, where they will resume on April 18, IRNA news agency reported.
Rouhani told a national anti-COVID-19 committee that the Health Ministry said planning to reopen those businesses does not violate health protocols. Rouhani said the next phase of social distancing should be “based on Iranian lifestyle” while also compatible with World Health Organization principles, IRNA reported.
The news report did not specify what counts as a low-risk business.
Among its Middle Eastern companions, Iran has been the worst affected by the coronavirus. Its death toll rose to 4,357 on Saturday as its number of cases surpassed 70,000, of which 1,800 were recorded overnight, the health ministry said.
But the Islamic Republic also is juggling a battered economy, ravaged by sanctions, and is keen to stimulate its local economy.
Ali Rabiei, a spokesperson for the Iranian government, said the economic shock caused by the spread of the virus in Iran is heavily affecting the service industry, IRNA reported. He said the Ministry of Labor estimated, in a long-term shutdown, the number of unemployed is likely to surpass 4 million.
Rouhani also announced Iran will soon become self-sufficient in producing coronavirus test kits, face masks and artificial ventilation units.