NEW YORK (AP) — New York authorities mobilized to respond to the city’s emergence as the nation’s biggest coronavirus hot spot
A makeshift morgue was set up outside Bellevue Hospital, and the city’s police, their ranks dwindling as more fall ill, were told to patrol nearly empty streets to enforce social distancing.
Public health officials hunted down beds and medical equipment and put out a call for more doctors and nurses to avoid overwhelming hospitals as has happened in Italy and Spain. Spanish lawmakers agreed to extending by two weeks a state of emergency that has allowed the government to maintain a national lockdown.
In Washington, the Senate in a unanimous, late-night votepassed a $2.2 trillion economic rescue package steering aid to businesses, workers and health care systems. The House could pass it Friday.
Worldwide, the death toll climbed past 21,000, according to a running count kept by Johns Hopkins University. The number of dead in the U.S. rose to 1,041 as of late Wednesday, with nearly 70,000 infections.
New York State alone accounted for more than 30,000 cases and close to 300 deaths, most of them in New York City.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, again asking for help in dealing with the onslaught, attributed the cluster to the city’s role as a gateway to international travelers and the density of its population, with 8.6 million people sharing subways, elevators, apartment buildings and offices.
Some public health experts also attributed the city’s burgeoning caseload in part to the state’s big push to test people.
After New York’s first positive test came back on March 1 — in a health care worker who had traveled to Iran and secluded herself upon returning — Mayor Bill de Blasio and Cuomo initially cast the disease as a dangerous threat but one that the city’s hospital system could handle.
The risk to most New Yorkers, they said, was relatively low.
But their message shifted, as it did with many other leaders, who found themselves acting on new information in an uncharted, fast-changing situation.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House’s coronavirus task force, said at a briefing that the number of new cases in New York City has been relatively constant over the last three days.
But she warned hospital cases will continue to increase because they reflect people who contracted the illness before full mitigation efforts kicked in, and urged city residents to follow White House recommendations.
“To every American out there, where you are protecting yourself, you are protecting others,” Birx said.