New York: The United States has entered a major phase of shutdown with normal life getting majorly disrupted and the economy in turmoil as coronovirus (COVID-19) cases jumped up steadily across the country. This, even before testing for the virus is to begin on a massive scale with authorities stating that 4 million testing kits will reach the states by the end of this week.
As of Tuesday evening, the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the US stood at 781 with 27 deaths, topped by Washington state with 23 and California and Florida accounting for two deaths each, as per figures released by the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
New York state, which topped the US with the most number of cases at 142 on Tuesday, moved to impose a containment area in New Rochelle where the National Guard is being deployed for delivering food and cleaning.
What is causing concern is that the Trump administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) appear to have moved in late with their mitigation efforts because only on Monday did they launch a website www.coronavirus.gov listing details of what to do for individuals and businesses and advising residents to adopt ‘social distancing’ as much as possible.
In the meantime, the country has already gone into shutdown mode. Employees of major companies including Amazon, Google and Facebook are working from home while several universities, colleges and schools across the country have done away with physical classes and teaching online.
Harvard University on Tuesday, on the lines of Columbia and Stanford Universities a day earlier, shut shop and advised students not to return to campus after the spring break until further notice.
Meanwhile, Apple put off its slated launch of the iPhone 9 due to the coronavirus outbreak. The company was to have unveiled the new phone late March ahead of its release in stores in April.
Even as the US stock market tumbled further on Tuesday due to crashing oil prices following a fallout between OPEC nations and Russia on containing oil production, as well as the global coronavirus outbreak, president Donald Trump on Tuesday confabulated with US senators and congressmen at Capitol Hill and urged them to sanction an economic package that includes a payroll tax credit for all the affected persons.
Health officials believe that the mitigation of the virus is a near-impossible task as they say that the steps being taken by the US Government, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are too little and too late.
As per estimates of the US Department of HHS, at least 2 lakh people would need intensive medical care by way of hospitalization over the next few weeks whereas the total ICU beds in the various hospitals in the country do not top one lakh.
While admitting that the administration does not know how many people have been tested so far for the virus, HHS secretary Alex Azar has said that they expect nearly four million testing kits to reach the states by the end of this week.
While health officials have advised against old people (over 60 years) to stay indoors and avoid travel and going to public places, in signs of fears of the unknown, most US residents of all age groups are already avoiding supermarkets and theatres.
In the meantime, essential items like wipes, hand sanitizers and masks have virtually disappeared from the shelves or available online at exorbitant prices.
Health officials, who are the first responders in treating the coronavirus patients, are seeking precautionary kits for themselves including masks and gloves even as several officials including US senator Ted Cruz and a few Congressmen have on their own quarantined themselves after interacting with a coronavirus patient at the Conservative Political Action Conference that was held between February 26-29 in Maryland.
President Donald Trump was one of the attendees at this meet.
Among senior officials who tested positive for COVID-19 late on Monday was Rick Cotton, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
when asked by the media on Monday, vice-president Mike Pence said he did not know whether President Trump has been tested for the virus....