US death toll eclipses China's as reinforcements head to NYCTuesday, March 31, 2020
NEW YORK (AP) — The US death toll from the coronavirus climbed past 3,600 Tuesday, eclipsing China's official count, as hard-hit New York City rushed to bring in more medical professionals and ambulances and parked refrigerated morgue trucks on the streets to collect the dead.
The crisis hit close to home for Gov Andrew Cuomo, who reported teary-eyed that his brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, was infected.
The governor pronounced the disaster unlike any other the city has weathered: "This is ongoing and the duration itself is debilitating and exhausting and depressing."
Elsewhere around the world, hard-hit Italy reported that the infection rate appears to be levelling off and new cases could start declining, but that the crisis is far from over. Spain struggled to fend off the collapse of its hospital system. Vladimir Putin's Russia moved to crack down on quarantine violations and "fake news" about the outbreak. And China edged closer to normal as stores in the epicenter city of Wuhan began reopening.
Worldwide, more than 800,000 people have been infected and over 40,000 have died, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. Italy and Spain accounted for half the deaths, while the U.S. had over 180,000 infections, with more dead than China's official toll of about 3,300.
New York was the nation's deadliest hot spot, with about 1,550 deaths statewide, most of them in New York City, which braced for things to get much worse in the coming weeks.
At Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, critically ill COVID-19 patients are filling intensive care units, surgical floors and operating rooms and waiting in the emergency room for beds to become available, said Dr. Eric Wei of the city's hospital agency.
"I've practiced emergency medicine for a long time, and I'm seeing things that I never could have imagined in terms of the things this virus can do to all ages, including people who were previously healthy," he said.
A 1,000-bed emergency hospital set up at the mammoth Javits Convention Center began taking non-coronavirus patients to help relieve the city's overwhelmed health system. A Navy hospital ship with 1,000 beds that arrived on Monday was expected to begin accepting patients on Tuesday.
The indoor tennis center that is the site of the U.S. Open tournament is being turned into a hospital as well.
The city also worked to bring in 250 out-of-town ambulances and 500 paramedics to deal with a crush of emergency calls. The fire commissioner said ambulances are responding to double their normal daily total of 3,000 calls to 911. A five-day stretch last week was the busiest in the history of the city's emergency services operation.
In addition, New York authorities sought to bring on more volunteer health care professionals and hoped to have them on board by Thursday. Nearly 80,000 former nurses, doctors and others are said to be stepping forward, and the governor said officials are doing background checks for disciplinary actions and otherwise making sure they are fit for duty.
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