Wed | May 27, 2020

Governor begs for help amid `staggering’ death toll

Published:Tuesday | March 31, 2020 | 12:10 AM
Undertaker Mari Carmen Serrador, 53 years old, protecting herself with a mask at Salvador cemetery during the coronavirus outbreak, near to Vitoria, northern Spain, on Monday. (AP)
Undertaker Mari Carmen Serrador, 53 years old, protecting herself with a mask at Salvador cemetery during the coronavirus outbreak, near to Vitoria, northern Spain, on Monday. (AP)

NEW YORK (AP):

New York’s governor issued an urgent appeal for medical volunteers Monday amid a “staggering” number of deaths from the coronavirus, saying: “Please come help us in New York, now.” And tens of thousands of retired or sidelined nurses and doctors were already answering the call.

The plea from Gov Andrew Cuomo came as the death toll in New York State climbed past 1,200 — with most of the victims in the big city — and authorities warned that the crisis pushing New York’s hospitals to the breaking point is just a preview of what other cities across the US could soon face.

Cuomo said the city needs one million additional health care workers.

“We’ve lost over 1,000 New Yorkers,” he said. “To me, we’re beyond staggering already. We’ve reached staggering.”

At the same time the governor’s appeal went out, a Navy hospital ship, also sent to the city after 9/11, pulled into port with 1,000 beds to help relieve pressure on New York’s hospitals. And an estimated 80,000 former medical professionals were stepping up to volunteer.

“Whatever it is that they need, I’m willing to do,” said Jerry Kops, a musician and former nurse whose tour with the show Blue Man Group was abruptly halted by the outbreak. He returned to his Long Island home, where he volunteered to be a nurse again.

In Europe, meanwhile, hard-hit Italy and Spain saw their death tolls climb by more than 800 each, but the World Health Organisation’s emergency chief said cases there were “potentially stabilising”. At the same time, he warned that this is no time to let up on tough containment measures.

“We have to now push the virus down, and that will not happen by itself,” said Dr Michael Ryan.

Three-quarters of a million people around the world have become infected and over 35,000 have died, according to a running count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

The US reported over 140,000 infections and more than 2,500 deaths, with New York City the nation’s worst hot spot, but New Orleans, Detroit and other cities are also seeing alarming clusters.

“Anyone who says this situation is a New York City-only situation is in a state of denial,” Cuomo said. “You see this virus move across the state, you see this virus move across the nation. There is no American who is immune to this virus.”

Dr Anthony Fauci, the US government’s top infectious-disease expert, similarly warned that smaller cities are likely about to see cases “take off” the way they have in New York City.

“What we’ve learned from painful experience with this outbreak is that it goes along almost on a straight line, then a little acceleration, acceleration, then it goes way up,” he said on ABC’s ‘ Good Morning America’.

In other developments around the world:

— Bells tolled in Madrid’s deserted central square and flags were lowered in a day of mourning as Spain raced to build field hospitals to treat an onslaught of coronavirus patients. The country’s death toll topped 7,300.

— In Japan, officials announced a new date for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics — the summer of 2021 — as a spike in reported infections fuelled suspicions that the government was understating the extent of the country’s outbreak in recent weeks while it was still hoping to salvage the Summer Games.

— Moscow locked down its 12 million people as Russia braced for sweeping nationwide restrictions.

— Israel said 70-year-old Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is quarantining himself after an aide tested positive for the virus. And in Britain, Prince Charles, the heir to the throne who tested positive for the virus, ended his period of isolation and is in good health, his office said.

Italy’s death toll climbed to nearly 11,600. But in a bit of positive news, newly-released numbers showed a continued slowdown in the rate of new confirmed cases and a record number of people cured.

“We are saving lives by staying at home, by maintaining social distance, by travelling less and by closing schools,” said Dr Luca Richeldi, a lung specialist.