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Virus Deaths,Unemployment Accelerating 04/03 06:19

   NEW YORK (AP) -- Coronavirus deaths mounted with alarming speed in Spain, 
Italy and New York, the most lethal hot spot in the United States, while the 
outbreak has thrown 10 million Americans out of work in just two weeks and by 
Friday had sickened more than a million people. 

   The public health crisis deepened in New York City, where one funeral home 
in a hard-hit neighborhood had 185 bodies stacked up --- more than triple 
normal capacity. The city has seen at least 1,500 virus deaths.

   "It's surreal," owner Pat Marmo said, adding that he's been begging families 
to insist hospitals hold their dead loved ones as long as possible. "We need 
help."

   Worldwide the number of reported infections hit another gloomy milestone --- 
1 million, with more than 53,000 deaths, according to a tally kept by Johns 
Hopkins University. But the true numbers are believed to be much higher because 
of testing shortages, many mild cases that have gone unreported and suspicions 
that some countries are covering up the extent of their outbreaks.

   Spain on Thursday reported a record one-day number of deaths, 950, bringing 
its overall toll to about 10,000, despite signs that the infection rate is 
slowing. Italy recorded 760 more deaths, for a total of 13,900, the worst of 
any country, but new infections continued to level off. 

   France recorded a running total of about 4,500 deaths in hospitals, with 471 
in the past day. But officials expect the overall toll to jump significantly 
because they are only now starting to count deaths in nursing homes and other 
facilities for older people. 

   France's Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said he and his government 
colleagues are "fighting hour by hour" to ward off shortages of essential drugs 
used to keep COVID-19 patients alive in intensive care. 

   As the death toll grew, so did the economic fallout. New unemployment 
numbers showed the outbreak has thrown 10 million Americans out of work in just 
two weeks in the swiftest, most stunning collapse the U.S. job market has ever 
witnessed.

   Roughly 90% of the U.S. population is under stay-at-home orders, and many 
factories, restaurants, stores and other businesses are closed or have seen 
sales shrivel. Economists warned unemployment would almost certainly top those 
of the Great Recession a decade ago and could reach levels not seen since the 
Great Depression in the 1930s.

   "My anxiety is through the roof right now, not knowing what's going to 
happen," said Laura Wieder, laid off from her job managing a now-closed sports 
bar in Bellefontaine, Ohio. 

   The pandemic will cost the world economy as much as $4.1 trillion, or nearly 
5% of all economic activity, the Philippines-based Asian Development Bank, said 
Friday. 

   At least a million people in Europe are estimated to have lost their jobs 
over the past couple of weeks. Spain alone added more than 300,000 to its 
unemployment rolls in March.

   But the job losses in Europe appear to be far smaller than in the U.S. 
because of countries' greater social safety nets.

   Estimates of those in China, the world's second-largest economy, who have 
lost jobs or are underemployed run as high as 200 million. The government said 
Friday it would would provide an additional 1 trillion yuan ($142 billion) to 
local banks to lend at preferential rates to small- and medium-sized businesses 
that provide the bulk of employment.

   With more than 245,000 people infected in the U.S. and the death toll 
topping 6,000, sobering preparations were underway. The Federal Emergency 
Management Agency asked the Pentagon for 100,000 body bags because of the 
possibility funeral homes will be overwhelmed, the military said.

   White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said U.S. 
infection data suggest Americans need to emulate those European nations that 
have started to see the spread of the virus slowing through strict social 
distancing. 

   The Trump administration was formalizing new guidance to recommend Americans 
wear coverings such as non-medical masks, T-shirts or bandannas over their 
mouths and noses when out in public and preserve medical masks for those on the 
front lines. 

   But there are still shortages of critical equipment, including masks, in 
Europe and the U.S.

   Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned that New York could run out of breathing machines 
in six days. He complained that states are competing against each other for 
protective gear and breathing machines, or are being outbid by the federal 
government. 

   Trump invoked the Defense Production Act in hopes of boosting production of 
medical-grade masks by Minnesota-based 3M to assist first responders. 
Washington is also trying to crack down on a growing black market for 
protective medical supplies.

   Nine leading European university hospitals warned they will run out of 
essential medicines for COVID-19 patients in intensive care in less than two 
weeks. 

   For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as 
fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with health 
problems, it can cause severe symptoms like pneumonia.

   In a sign of the outbreak's impact on the U.S. military, the captain of a 
Navy aircraft carrier facing a growing outbreak of the virus was fired by Navy 
leaders who said he created a panic by sending his memo pleading for help to 
too many people. Navy Secretary Thomas Modly says the ship's commander, Navy 
Capt. Brett Crozier, "demonstrated extremely poor judgment" in the middle of a 
crisis. 

   Elsewhere among the world's most vulnerable, aid workers were bracing for a 
possible outbreak among more than 1 million Rohingya Muslim refugees living in 
cramped camps in Bangladesh.

   And in a move likely to anger China, officials from the U.S. and Taiwan, the 
island claimed by Beijing as its own territory, held a virtual meeting Sunday 
to discuss ways of increasing Taiwan's international participation, 
particularly in the World Health Organization from which it is excluded at 
China's insistence. 


(KR)

 
 
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