New York governor lifts remaining COVID-19 restrictions, calls it a ‘momentous day’

By Maria Caspani and Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) -New York is lifting all state-mandated coronavirus restrictions after reporting that 70% of the state’s adults have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday.

“It is an important milestone, and we’re going to keep pushing to do more,” Cuomo told a news conference, adding that the state would continue to encourage more New Yorkers to get vaccinated.

Restrictions across commercial and social settings will be lifted immediately. Cuomo said some limitations based on guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would remain in place, with mitigation measures still required in public transit and healthcare settings.

Cuomo, whose state was the epicenter of the U.S. COVID-19 public health crisis last year, also said individuals and businesses could still choose to adopt some precautions.

The governor, who won praise in the early days of the pandemic for his televised news conferences but later became entangled in accusations of sexual misconduct, abuse of power and allegations of mishandling nursing homes during the crisis, made a triumphant entrance at the World Trade Center in New York City on Tuesday to mark what he called a “momentous day.”

“New York State has fully vaccinated a larger share of adults than any other big state in the country,” he told a cheering crowd that included first responders and hospitality workers.

On Tuesday night, fireworks all across the state will celebrate the milestone, Cuomo announced, and the Empire State Building and other state landmarks will be lit in blue and gold, New York’s colors.

Most U.S. states have moved to ease or lift coronavirus restrictions as the virus abates and vaccinations progress.

New York joined California, where restrictions including physical distancing, mask requirements and capacity limits for restaurants, stores and other businesses that cater to consumers end on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani and Jonathan Allen in New York, Editing by Will Dunham, Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Berkrot)

One million Americans vaccinated for COVID; Tennessee new epicenter

By Gabriella Borter and Dan Whitcomb

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Tennessee emerged alongside California on Wednesday as an epicenter of the latest COVID-19 surge even while more than 1 million Americans have been vaccinated as U.S. political leaders sought to guard against a highly contagious coronavirus variant sweeping across Britain.

Tennessee averaged nearly 128 new infections per 100,000 people over the last week, the highest of any U.S. state, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. California stood second at 111 new cases per 100,000 residents.

“Our state is ground zero for a surge in COVID-19 and we need Tennesseans to (do) their part,” Governor Bill Lee said on Twitter, urging residents to wear face masks and gather only with members of their own household over Christmas.

Some public health officials say Americans’ traveling and gathering for Thanksgiving contributed to the latest nationwide explosion in cases.

All told, 31 U.S. states have reported a grim record in new COVID-19 infections for December as hospitalizations and deaths also spiral. More than 194,600 new cases were confirmed on Tuesday alone.

The CDC said that as of Wednesday morning more than 1 million people nationwide had been given the first of the two doses required for the two coronavirus vaccines that have been approved. But most Americans have been told that it could be six months or more before they are eligible for the shots as priority is given to healthcare workers, nursing home residents and in some cases top government officials.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease official, received the Moderna vaccine on live television on Tuesday. Joe Biden was inoculated with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in front of cameras on Monday.

CONCERN GROWS OVER MUTANT VARIANT

U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota, earlier this week criticized political leaders for putting themselves at the front of the line for the shot.

“We are not more important then frontline workers, teachers etc. who are making sacrifices everyday. Which is why I won’t take it,” Omar said on Twitter.

The Trump administration said on Wednesday it had reached a $2 billion deal with Pfizer to distribute 100 million additional doses of its vaccine by July.

But Americans who saw a ray of hope in the release of the two vaccines in December learned of an even more transmissible coronavirus variant spreading in the United Kingdom. Drug makers Pfizer and Moderna were testing their vaccines against the variant, but believed the drugs would be effective against the mutant virus.

The United States, unlike many nations worldwide, has not banned travelers from Britain.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would order international travelers to quarantine for 14 days on arrival and provide contact information to government officials. Sheriff’s deputies will make visits to enforce the order on those arriving from Britain, the mayor said.

Travelers found to violate those orders face fines of $1,000 per day, de Blasio said.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has asked airlines to screen British travelers for COVID-19. The state was an early epicenter of the virus and has recorded more than 36,000 COVID deaths, far more than any other state.

Washington state Governor Jay Inslee this week ordered a 14-day quarantine for travelers arriving from the UK, South Africa or other countries where the new variant had been detected.

In New York City, vaccination programs expanded to the Fire Department, where roughly 6,000 personnel have contracted the virus, Fire Commissioner Dan Nigro told reporters. Some 400 FDNY paramedics lined up to receive their first doses of the Moderna vaccine on Wednesday, including Verena Kansog, advanced life support coordinator for Manhattan, who got her shot at a training center on Randalls Island.

“I feel relieved,” Kansog, who worried about bringing the disease home to her elderly mother, told Reuters in a phone interview. “I was not one single bit nervous.”

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter and Dan Whitcomb; Additional reporting by Anurag Maan, Carlo Allegri, Jonathan Allen, Peter Szekely, Lisa Lambert, Susan Heavey and Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Leslie Adler)

One year on, Wuhan market at epicentre of virus outbreak remains barricaded and empty

By Cate Cadell

WUHAN, China (Reuters) – For over six years, 38-year-old Wuhan restaurant owner Lai Yun started most days the same way – with a trip to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, just ten minutes walk from his house.

“I’d send the kids to school, have breakfast and then walk over to the market. It was very convenient,” he said.

That changed on Dec. 31, 2019, after four cases of a mystery pneumonia were linked to the market and it was shuttered overnight. By the end of the month, the city had begun a grueling 76-day lockdown that came with just hours notice and barred people from leaving their homes.

Almost a year since the outbreak began, COVID-19 has claimed more than 1.5 million lives, and the Wuhan wet market where it was initially detected stands empty even as the city around it has come back to life.

It’s become a symbol of the fierce political and scientific battle raging around the origin of the virus with Beijing continuing to spar with the United States and other countries, accusing them of bias.

A team of World Health Organization experts has yet to visit Wuhan, let alone the market. Health authorities in China and abroad have warned that origin tracing efforts could take years and yield inconclusive results.

In Wuhan, where the stigma of being the first coronavirus epicenter hangs heavy, over a dozen residents and business owners told Reuters they don’t believe the virus began in the city.

“It certainly couldn’t have been Wuhan… surely another person brought it in. Or surely it came from some other product brought from outside. There were just certain conditions for it to appear here,” said a wet market vendor in the city’s center who gave his name as Chen.

In recent months, Chinese diplomats and state media have said they believe the market is not the origin but the victim of the disease, and have thrown support behind theories that the virus potentially originated in another country.

RESTRICTED ACCESS

Experts say the market still plays a role in the investigation and is therefore unlikely to be demolished, though much of that research will rely on samples taken immediately after the outbreak began.

“The first cluster of cases was there, so at least it would be of interest to find out the origin of those and put forward a few hypotheses, like whether it’s more likely from the wild animals or perhaps points to a human super-spreader,” said Jin Dong-Yan, professor of virology at the University of Hong Kong.

Access to the area remains heavily restricted. People who visited before the lockdown remember a bustling building with hundreds of stalls divided into sections for red meat, seafood and vegetables.

Recently, the local government has added leafy green plants and traditional Chinese paintings to the semi-permanent blue barricades encircling the area. Inside, wooden boards line the stalls and windows.

On the second floor above the empty market, shops selling glasses and optometry equipment reopened in June.

This week, a guard at the entrance to the eyewear market took temperatures and warned journalists not to take videos or photos from inside the building.

“Maybe some people have some bad feelings about it, but now it’s just an empty building … who feels anxious about an empty building?” said a shop assistant selling contact lenses, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the subject.

While Wuhan hasn’t reported any new locally transmitted cases of COVID-19 since May, for some who relied on the market making ends meet is still a struggle.

Lai, who reopened his Japanese restaurant in June, says the market’s closure and subsequent public panic about the safety of imported seafood has increased the cost of procuring some ingredients five-fold.

“Our goal for the next year is to just survive.”

(Reporting by Cate Cadell; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

Chicagoans told to stay home, Detroit moves school online as COVID-19 cases surge

By Brendan O’Brien and Maria Caspani

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Chicago issued a stay-at-home advisory and Detroit stopped in-person schooling on Thursday to staunch the coronavirus outbreak as more than a dozen states reported a doubling of new COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks.

Officials in the Midwestern cities along with New York, California, Iowa and other states were re-imposing this week restrictions that had been eased in recent months. The moves were driven by surging infection rates and concern that the onset of winter, when people are more likely to gather indoors, will worsen the trends.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday issued a 30-day advisory calling upon residents to stay at home and have no visitors, even during Thanksgiving festivities. The third- largest city in the United States could see 1,000 more COVID-19 deaths by the end of 2020 if residents do not change behaviors to stop the spread of the virus, Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot set a 10-person limit on gatherings, including indoor and outdoor events, and said travelers from out of the state needed to quarantine for 14 days or submit a negative coronavirus test.

“None of us can keep maintaining the status quo in the face of this very stark reality,” the mayor told reporters, noting the average number of cases have gone from 500 to 1,900 per day over the last month and the city’s positivity rate shot up to 15% from 5%.

Illinois has emerged as the pandemic’s new epicenter in the region as well as across the country. In the past two weeks, the state reported about 130,000 cases, the highest in the country and more than hard-hit Texas and California.

A Reuters tally showed coronavirus cases more than doubling in 13 states in the past two weeks.

In Michigan, the Detroit public school system – the state’s largest – said on Thursday it would suspend of in-person education until Jan. 11, with the infection rate in the city rising rapidly. The district will hold all classes online starting Monday.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday that the country’s largest school system was preparing for a possible shutdown but closure might still be averted.

“We’re not there yet, and let’s pray we don’t get there,” de Blasio told reporters. De Blasio has said schools will close if the percentage of city residents testing positive, now at a seven-day average of 2.6%, surpasses 3%.

Total COVID-19 cases across the United States hit an all-time daily high for a second day in a row on Wednesday at 142,279 and crossed the 100,000 mark for an eighth consecutive day, Reuters data showed.

The number of people hospitalized with the virus surged to at least 64,939 by late Wednesday, the highest ever for a single day during the pandemic, increasing by more than 41% in the past two weeks. The death toll rose by 1,464 to a total of 241,809.

Vaccine developers have offered some good news this week, with Pfizer and BioNTech trumpeting successful early data from a large-scale clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine.

Health experts are hopeful that a vaccine might become available in the coming months for the most vulnerable populations and for healthcare providers.

But with a more lengthy timeline for the general public, many are urging strict adherence to well-known virus mitigation measures like wearing a face covering, washing hands and maintaining a safe social distance.

“We hope that by the time you get into the second quarter, end of April, early May, May-June – somewhere around that time, the ordinary citizen should be able to get it,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top U.S. health official, told the ABC “Good Morning America” program on Thursday.

“What we need to do is what we’ve been talking about for some time now but really doubling down on it.”

(Reporting by Maria Caspani in New York and Anurag Maan in Bengaluru and Brendan O’Brien in Chicago, additional reporting by Peter Szekely in New York and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Howard Goller and Cynthia Osterman)

Google turns Android phones into earthquake sensors; California to get alerts

By Paresh Dave

OAKLAND, Calif. (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google’s Android phones on Tuesday started detecting earthquakes around the world to provide data that could eventually give billions of users precious seconds of warning of a tremor nearby, with an alerting feature first rolling out in California.

Japan, Mexico and California already use land-based sensors to generate warnings, aiming to cut injuries and property damage by giving people further away from the epicenter of an earthquake seconds to protect themselves before the shaking starts.

If Google’s approaches for detecting and alerting prove effective, warnings would reach more people, including for the first time Indonesia and other developing countries with few traditional sensors.

Seismology experts consulted by Google said turning smartphones into mini-seismographs marked a major advancement, despite the inevitably of erroneous alerts from a work in progress, and the reliance on a private company’s algorithms for public safety. More than 2.5 billion devices, including some tablets, run Google’s Android operating system.

“We are on a path to delivering earthquake alerts wherever there are smartphones,” said Richard Allen, director of University of California Berkeley’s seismological lab and visiting faculty at Google over the last year.

Google’s program emerged from a week-long session 4-1/2 years ago to test whether the accelerometers in phones could detect car crashes, earthquakes and tornadoes, said principal software engineer Marc Stogaitis.

Accelerometers – sensors that measure direction and force of motion – are mainly used to determine whether a user is holding a phone in landscape or portrait mode.

The company studied historical accelerometer readings during earthquakes and found they could give some users up to a minute of notice.

Android phones can currently separate earthquakes from vibrations caused by thunder or the device dropping only when the device is charging, stationary and has user permission to share data with Google.

If phones detect an earthquake, they send their city-level location to Google, which can triangulate the epicenter and estimate the magnitude with as few as several hundred reports, Stogaitis said.

The system will not work in regions including China where Google’s Play Services software is blocked.

Google expects to issue its first alerts based on accelerometer readings next year. It also plans to feed alerts for free to businesses that want to automatically shut off elevators, gas lines and other systems before the shaking starts.

To test its alerting abilities, Google is drawing in California from traditional government seismograph readings to alert Android users about earthquakes, similar to notifications about kidnappings or flooding.

People expected to experience strong shaking would hear a loud dinging and see a full-screen advisement to drop, cover and hold on, Stogaitis said. Those further away would get a smaller notification designed not to stir them from their sleep, while people too close to be warned will get information about post-quake safety, such as checking gas valves.

Alerts will trigger for earthquakes magnitude 4.5 or greater, and no app download is necessary.

MyShake, an app launched by Allen’s Berkeley lab last year to provide Californians warnings and let them report damage, has drawn 1 million downloads.

Stogaitis also said Google has not discussed its plans with Apple Inc, whose competitor to Android comprises half the market in countries including the United States.

Apple was not immediately available for comment.

(Reporting by Paresh Dave; Additional reporting by Nathan Frandino; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

Miami medical teams feel helpless as COVID-19 devastates South Florida

By Zachary Fagenson

MIAMI (Reuters) – As the coronavirus ravages Florida, healthcare workers in Miami hospitals are struggling to cope with the emotional and physical impact of treating a crushing wave of COVID-19 patients.

After seeing 10,000 new cases a day become the norm across the state in July, many of those on the front lines are frustrated with the apparent inability of local, state, and federal governments to coordinate an adequate response. They are equally aghast with what appears to be the reluctance or refusal of many Floridians to honor safety precautions to stop the spread of coronavirus.

“I know, and my colleagues know, that we’re putting a Band-Aid on a problem, we’re supporting people as best we can to get them through, but the real fight happens outside,” said Dr. Eric Knott, a pulmonary and critical care fellow working in three of Miami’s largest hospitals. “If you can’t stop the spread, all of my work is for nothing.”

For Miami doctors, concerns about the virus far surpass those stirred up by even the largest hurricanes.

“A hurricane tends to be a sort of finite amount, and this is infinite,” said Dr. Mark Supino, an attending physician in Jackson Memorial Hospital’s emergency department.

Many healthcare workers and union leaders were critical of Miami’s reopening several weeks after the number of cases of the novel coronavirus first began rising in early March.

On Friday, state health officials reported a total of 402,312 cases across Florida, with 135 new deaths bringing the total to more than 5,600.

While the death toll in South Florida has not approached that of New York City, an early epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, hospital beds and intensive care units across the region have filled to capacity, and in some cases surpassed it.

At Jackson Memorial Hospital, the largest facility in the region, officials have called in hundreds of additional medical workers as employees have fallen sick and had to stay home or be hospitalized. An auditorium was sealed and prepared for COVID-positive patients with a negative pressure system to limit the air flow to prevent new infections.

“In 10 years of medicine I never had to put another nurse on life support, I never had to worry about my co-workers dying,” said Kevin Cho Tipton, a critical care nurse practitioner who works at one of Miami’s largest public hospitals. “It’s been emotionally very challenging, physically very challenging.”

Among the most difficult and stressful parts of the job are the sheer number of ICU patients.

Healthcare workers must constantly keep tabs on the vital organs of patients on ventilators, and many of the sick have to be flipped over and over again to stave off any complications from lying in one position for a prolonged period. To do so without risking detaching any of the life support systems can take up to six people.

The intensity has overwhelmed some.

Jude Derisme, vice president of Service Employees International Union 1199, which represents 25,000 medical workers across Florida, said the union had to help get one nurse, a 25-year veteran, off a hospital floor after a “break down.”

“My fear is that if we don’t find a way to bring these numbers down over the next two weeks, if they’re worse than these last two weeks, we’re going to be stretched too thin,” said Martha Baker, a registered nurse and president of Service Employees International Union 1991, which represents about 5,600 medical professionals within Miami’s Jackson Health System. “The sad news is that that’s when patients die.”

While her chapter of the union along with others across Florida have advocated for more personal protective equipment, better overtime pay, hazard pay, and worker’s compensation for those waylaid by the virus, they also acknowledged that medical workers can only do so much against the pandemic.

“This is war, and instead of bullets we’ve got viruses,” Baker said. “If we don’t find a way to dampen our curve we just keep chasing our tails.”

(Reporting by Zachary Fagenson in Miami; Editing by Frank McGurty and Tom Brown)

‘It’s not over’: COVID-19 cases rise in some nations easing lockdowns: WHO

WHO
GENEVA (Reuters) – Some countries have seen “upticks” in COVID-19 cases as lockdowns ease, and populations must protect themselves from the coronavirus while authorities continue testing, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

The epicenter of the pandemic is currently in countries of Central, South and North America, particularly the United States, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said.

“On upticks (in cases), yes we have seen in countries around the world – I’m not talking specifically about Europe – when the lockdowns ease, when the social distancing measures ease, people sometimes interpret this as ‘OK, it’s over’,” Harris told a U.N. briefing in Geneva.

“It’s not over. It’s not over until there is no virus anywhere in the world,” she said.

Harris, referring to U.S. demonstrations since the killing of George Floyd 10 days ago, she said that protesters must take precautions. “We have certainly seen a lot of passion this week, we’ve seen people who have felt the need to be out and to express their feelings,” she added. “”We ask them to remember still protect yourself and others.”

To avoid infection, the WHO advised people to maintain a distance of at least 1 metre (3 feet), frequently wash hands and avoid touching their mouth, nose and eyes, Harris said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Pravin Char)

‘Here Comes the Sun’ gets U.S. hospitals through dark days of pandemic

By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The most powerful medicine being used to bolster the morale of New York area healthcare workers at the epicenter of the U.S. novel coronavirus crisis may well be music.

Daily infusions of upbeat songs from The Beatles’ classic “Here Comes the Sun” to the theme from the hang-tough movie “Rocky” are being pumped through hospital public address systems to boost the spirits of nurses, doctors and support staff.

About 545,000 people were diagnosed with COVID-19 in the United States as of Sunday, and roughly 21,600 have died of the highly contagious illness.

A 4:30 p.m. daily dose of Australian pop singer Starley’s “Call On Me” has given strength to staff at one of Mount Sinai’s hospitals in New York City, who clap as a growing number of patients are discharged from the overwhelmed facility across the street from Columbia University.

“Some people would say to accept their fate. Well if this is fate then we’ll find a way to cheat,” Starley sings. “You know you can call on me, if you can’t stop the tears from falling down.”

In New Jersey, the “Rocky” theme song filled the air at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Paterson when Dr. James Pruden, the hospital’s director of emergency preparedness, was discharged last week as he recovered from the virus, rolling in his wheelchair past cheering staff.

On New York’s Long Island, the joyful “Here Comes the Sun” blasts overhead on the public address system at Mount Sinai South Nassau in Oceanside every time a COVID-19 patient is discharged.

In Detroit, one of the newest U.S. hot spots for the fast-spreading disease, a Beaumont Health nurse said the 1969 Beatles hit was played not just when patients are discharged but each time they are taken off a ventilator to breath on their own.

“The smiles returning to the faces. Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here,” rings out the song that George Harrison wrote about renewal after a long, dark winter.

(Additional reporting by Herbert Lash and Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)

U.S. coronavirus death projection lowered but official warns of ‘second wave’

By Peter Szekely and Maria Caspani

NEW YORK (Reuters) – An influential university model on the U.S. coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday scaled back its projected death toll by 26% to 60,000 but a federal health official warned of a second wave of infections if Americans relax “social distancing” practices.

The downward revision in the death toll in the University of Washington model – often cited by U.S. and state policymakers – coincides with comments by some political leaders that caseloads may have reached a plateau in certain areas.

Those assessments in recent days, including an apparent leveling out in hospitalizations in New York state – the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic – are tempered by a persistent climb in the U.S. death toll, which rose by more than 1,900 on Tuesday as some 30,000 new infections were reported.

New York Mayor Bill De Blasio told a briefing on Wednesday that coronavirus-related hospitalizations in the most populous U.S. city had stabilized and that the need for ventilators was lower than projected.

“In the last few days we’ve actually seen fewer ventilators needed that were projected,” the mayor said.

Even that revised forecast suggested months of pain ahead for the United States. All told, about 400,000 U.S. infections have been reported, along with roughly 13,000 deaths.

“What’s really important is that people don’t turn these early signs of hope into releasing from the 30 days to stop the spread – it’s really critical,” said Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, referring to guidelines aimed at reducing the spread of the virus.

“If people start going out again and socially interacting, we could see a really acute second wave,” Birx added.

The pandemic has upended American life, with 94% of the population ordered to stay at home and nearly 10 million people losing their jobs in the past two weeks.

Hospitals have been inundated with cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, resulting in shortages of medical equipment and protective garments.

The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model is one of several that the White House task force has cited. It now projects U.S. deaths at more than 60,000 by Aug. 4, down from the nearly 82,000 fatalities it had forecast on Tuesday.

The White House coronavirus task force has previously projected 100,000 to 240,000 Americans could die.

The institute also moved up its projected peak in the number to U.S. deaths to this Sunday, when it predicted 2,212 people will succumb to the disease. The revision moves forward the projected peak by four days, suggesting the strain on the country’s healthcare system will begin to abate a little sooner than previously expected.

AT-HOME DEATHS UNTRACKED

New York’s de Blasio estimated an undercount in the death toll of 100 to 200 people per day who are dying at home but excluded from the city’s rapidly growing coronavirus count. So far the city’s announced death toll has reflected only COVID-19 diagnoses confirmed in a laboratory.

But after a spike in the number of people dying at home, the city will now try to quantify how many of those died from coronavirus-related causes and add that to the its official death toll, New York’s health department said.

“Every single measure of this pandemic is an undercount. Every. Single. One,” Mark Levine, chairman of the City Council’s health committee, wrote on Twitter. “Confirmed cases? Skewed by lack of testing. Hospitalizations? Skewed by huge # of sick people we are sending home because there’s no room in ERs. Deaths? Massive undercount because of dying at home.”

The state of New York accounts for more than a third of U.S. confirmed coronavirus cases, and nearly half the cumulative death toll.

Authorities in various states in recent days have disclosed data showing that the pandemic was having a disproportionate impact on African Americans, reflecting longstanding racial inequities in health outcomes in the United States.

De Blasio said there were “clear inequalities” in how the coronavirus is affecting his city’s population.

In New York, long weeks of fighting the pandemic were taking a toll on hospital staff, some of whom are coming down with the disease they have been fighting.

One resident doctor at New York-Presbyterian Hospital said he had been surprised by the number of hospital workers infected.

“There are people around the hospital who are sick and now they’re showing up on our patient list. … It’s hard not to see yourself in them,” the resident said. “A lot of us feel like we are being put in harm’s way.”

(Reporting by Peter Szekely, Doina Chiacu, Susan Heavey and Gabriella Borter; Writing by Daniel Trotta and Will Dunham; Editing by Scott Malone and Alistair Bell)

Coronavirus could kill 81,000 in U.S., subside in June – Washington University analysis

By Carl O’Donnell

(Reuters) – The coronavirus pandemic could kill more than 81,000 people in the United States in the next four months and may not subside until June, according to a data analysis done by University of Washington School of Medicine.

The number of hospitalized patients is expected to peak nationally by the second week of April, though the peak may come later in some states. Some people could continue to die of the virus as late as July, although deaths should be below epidemic levels of 10 per day by June at the latest, according to the analysis.

The analysis, using data from governments, hospitals and other sources, predicts that the number of U.S. deaths could vary widely, ranging from as low as around 38,000 to as high as around 162,000.

The variance is due in part to disparate rates of the spread of the virus in different regions, which experts are still struggling to explain, said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, who led the study.

The duration of the virus means there may be a need for social distancing measures for longer than initially expected, although the country may eventually be able relax restrictions if it can more effectively test and quarantine the sick, Murray said.

The analysis also highlights the strain that will be placed on hospitals. At the epidemic’s peak, sick patients could exceed the number of available hospital beds by 64,000 and could require the use of around 20,000 ventilators. Ventilators are already running short in hard-hit places like New York City.

The virus is spreading more slowly in California, which could mean that peak cases there will come later in April and social distancing measures will need to be extended in the state for longer, Murray said.

Louisiana and Georgia are predicted to see high rates of contagion and could see a particularly high burden on their local healthcare systems, he added.

The analysis assumes close adherence to infection prevention measures imposed by federal, state and local governments.

“The trajectory of the pandemic will change – and dramatically for the worse – if people ease up on social distancing or relax with other precautions,” Murray said in a statement.

The analysis comes as confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States continue to mount, with the World Health Organization saying the country has the potential to become the world’s new epicenter of the virus.

The coronavirus causes a respiratory illness that in a minority of severe cases ravages the lungs and can lead to death.

The United States has reported around 70,000 cases of the virus and more than 900 deaths since January. Globally, it has infected more than half a million people, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The University of Washington has been at the center of the outbreak in United States, which first was detected in the state of Washington and has so far killed 100 people in that state, according to date from Johns Hopkins University.

(Reporting by Carl O’Donnell; Editing by Aurora Ellis)