(NEW YORK) — An outbreak of the novel coronavirus that began in China about three months ago has now infected more than 7,300 people across all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.
The newly identified virus, which causes a respiratory illness known officially as COVID-19, has killed at least 115 people in the United States, according to ABC News’ count.
The disease has spread to every continent except Antarctica, infecting more than 207,000 people globally and killing over 8,200, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
Governments around the world have implemented travel restrictions, border closures and lockdowns in an effort to slow the spread.
Here’s how the news is unfolding Wednesday. All times Eastern:
12:45 p.m.: Government recommends all nonessential medical procedures be limited
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma said Wednesday that CMS will announce regulations limiting “nonessential elective medical and surgical procedures, including dental procedures,” in order to help prioritize essential health activities.
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“We believe that these recommendations will help surgeons, patients, and hospitals prioritize what is essential, while leaving the ultimate decision to the heads of state and local health officials and those clinicians who have direct responsibility to their patients,” Verma said. “And we urge providers and clinicians and patients to seriously consider these recommendations.”
12:30 p.m.: HUD suspending foreclosures, evictions
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will suspend all foreclosures and evictions until the end of April, President Donald Trump announced at a coronavirus briefing at the White House Wednesday.
Some local governments, including New York state and Los Angeles, had already temporarily banned evictions.
12:20 p.m.: Honda temporarily suspends North America production
Honda said it’s temporarily suspending production at North American plants from March 23 to March 31, reducing production by about 40,000 cars, due to an anticipated decline in demand.
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Honda will continue to give full pay during that period, the company said.
11:45 a.m.: Hospital ship USNS Comfort headed to NYC harbor
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that all businesses in the state must limit its workforce in the office to 50%.
“If it doesn’t slow the spread, we will reduce the number of workers even further,” he said. “That 50% can be calibrated.”
New York state has a total of 2,382 coronavirus cases and 20 deaths, the governor said.
Cuomo said he spoke with President Donald Trump who is dispatching the hospital ship USNS Comfort to New York City’s harbor where it can act as a floating hospital.
Cuomo said he and Trump also discussed setting up mobile hospitals.
10:32 a.m.: Italy’s virus-hit region ‘soon’ won’t be able to help sick, official says
Medical facilities in northern Italy’s virus-hit Lombardy region will “soon” be unable to help the sick, the regional governor said Wednesday.
Lombardy’s governor, Attilio Fontana, urged everyone in the region to stay home.
“Unfortunately the numbers of the contagion are not falling, they continue to be high,” Fontana told reporters, as quoted by Italian news agency ANSA. “We will soon be unable to give a response to those who fall ill.”
“Stay at home,” he added. “If you don’t understand that, we’ll have to be more aggressive.”
With more than 31,500 confirmed cases, Italy has the second-highest national total behind China, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
A majority of Italy’s confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus have been reported in the Lombardy region.
10:12 a.m. U.S. to close border with Canada
The United States will temporarily close its northern border with Canada to “non-essential traffic,” U.S. President Donald Trump announced via Twitter on Wednesday morning.
We will be, by mutual consent, temporarily closing our Northern Border with Canada to non-essential traffic. Trade will not be affected. Details to follow!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 18, 2020
Trump said the decision was made by “mutual consent,” and that “trade will not be affected.”
9:24 a.m. White House submits additional funding request to Congress
The White House on Tuesday night submitted an additional funding request to Congress, requesting $45.8 billion more — in addition to the trillion-dollar package currently being negotiated — in order to cover unanticipated costs for an array of federal agencies fighting the coronavirus.
The White House wants to provides $16.6 billion for Veterans Affairs, $11.5 billion for Health and Human Services, $8.3 billion for the Department of Defense and $3.2 billion for the Department of Homeland Security. The rest would go to over a dozen other federal agencies, according to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
8:00 a.m. Confirmed cases top 200,000 worldwide, global death toll exceeds 8,000
The worldwide number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus topped 200,000 while the global death toll surpassed 8,000 on Wednesday morning, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
The majority of cases and fatalities were still reported in China, but that percentage is continuing to diminish as the outbreak worsens in other countries such as Italy, Iran and the United States.
7:45 a.m. U.S. doctor on the frontlines speaks out: ‘We don’t have the resources for this’
A doctor on the frontlines of the fight against the novel coronavirus in the United States warned that hospitals are already running low on lifesaving resources, even as the outbreak has yet to reach a peak.
“If this peaks early and it peaks hard, we don’t have the resources for this and we’ll run out of ventilators and space,” Dr. Stephen Anderson, an emergency physician in Auburn, Washington, told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview Wednesday on Good Morning America.
“There’s no question, we need quicker and more tests, we certainly need more space to place people, we need ventilators,” Anderson continued. “I have ventilators this morning, but the hospital up the street from me is out of ventilators at the moment.”
Anderson also noted that health care workers on the frontlines, like himself, are in dire need of personal protective gear.
“I’ve got my mask for today right here and I’m guarding it with my life because it could be my life. We reportedly have two days’ supply,” he added. “We really don’t have a deep bullpen. If people get sick and they’re out, that takes people off the frontlines to help with this. But by the same token, you don’t want to be sick and be around the people that are coming to the emergency department who are already the sickest people in most need in America. So we are trying to test our health care workers as quickly and efficiently as we can and getting them back in the ballgame, if possible.”
Anderson said “there’s a lot of stress” among medical professionals right now, and he described the mood as “frightening.”
“In 35 years of practice, I can say that this is the most anxiety that I have ever seen around the idea of an infectious disease,” he said. “We are on the frontlines and it’s scary, that’s where the casualties always happen in any battle.”
Anderson emphasized the importance of flattening the curve of the outbreak to keep the spread of the disease at a manageable level for health care workers.
“We need to make sure that if this goes on into June, that it’s a gradual rise and fall,” he said. “And the way that we need to do that right now is by socially isolating ourselves and hunkering down so that we don’t spread the virus.”
6:07 a.m. Virus now present in all European countries as Montenegro confirms first cases
The novel coronavirus has now spread to all European nations as Montenegro confirmed its first cases late Tuesday night.
Until now, Montenegro was the only country in Europe without a single confirmed case of COVID-19. The government has taken measures to prevent the outbreak from reaching the country, including closing its borders for foreigners, shutting schools and banning public gatherings.
Montenegro’s prime minister, Dusko Markovic, revealed the country’s first two confirmed cases in a press conference late on Tuesday. The patients are both women — one is in her late 40s and the other is in her early 70s.
One of the patients had recently returned from Spain, where nearly 12,000 people are infected with the virus, while the other had returned from the United States, where nearly 6,500 people are infected.
The two patients are currently hospitalized in a special ward of a medical clinic in Podgorica, the capital. Both are in stable condition, according to Markovic.
“It is clear that the first cases of infections were not unexpected and it is very likely that soon new cases will be discovered,” Markovic said.
Calling on his European neighbors to show solidarity during the pandemic, Montenegro’s prime minister said his country’s ports will remain available to other nations in the region “to keep the flow of goods and its borders open to trade and supply.”
“It is up to us, the leaders of the region, to set an example and make decisions as good neighbors to each other,” Markovic said.
5:27 a.m. Schools close in 39 U.S. states
Thirty-nine states have decided to close schools as of Tuesday night, according to the news journal Education Week.
Combined with direct closures in other states, at least 91,000 public and private schools across the country are closed, are scheduled to close or were closed and later reopened, affecting some 41.6 million students, Education Week reported.
There are a total of 98,277 public schools and 34,576 private schools in the United States, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
3:48 a.m. Wuhan, China, reports just one new case for second straight day
The Chinese city of Wuhan, the original epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, reported just one new confirmed case for the second day in a row.
China’s National Health Commission recorded only one new case of confirmed infection in Hubei province on both Monday and Tuesday. Each was reported in the city of Wuhan, where the very first cases of the novel coronavirus emerged back in December.
Overall, the Chinese mainland has reported 80,894 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3,237 deaths, with a vast majority in Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province. While China still compromises the bulk of the world’s cases, that proportion is shrinking by the day as the epidemic appears to slow down in China and expand abroad, particularly in Europe.
With more than 31,500 confirmed cases, Italy has the second-highest national behind China, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
3:25 a.m. U.S. hospital association warns of ventilator shortage
The largest national hospital organization in the United States is urging Americans to adhere to the recommended health precautions amid the coronavirus outbreak so the health care system doesn’t become overwhelmed with patients.
“There are limited supplies of ventilators and hospital beds, which is why hospitals and public health officials all across the country are urging the public to follow the guidance of the CDC and other public health leaders on social distancing and other actions,” Nancy Foster, vice president for quality and patient safety policy at the American Hospital Association, told ABC News in a statement Tuesday night. “The best way not to overtax the health care system is to keep more people healthy. That is the reason public events have been canceled, schools are closed, businesses are instituting telework policies where possible, and other changes have been made to the way we routinely lead our lives.”
In addition to the guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services “has told nursing homes and other health care facilities that house our most vulnerable patients to severely limit visitors and group events,” according to Foster.
“This will reduce the surge of acutely ill patients that hospitals will see, and hopefully ensure we experience a manageable level of demand,” she added. “Hospitals and our dedicated doctors and nurses are doing their part to combat this virus. We hope everyone else will as well.”
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