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Coronavirus update: New York in crisis, Walmart adopts new safety measures

China has changed the way it counts coronavirus cases

Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 175,067 (144,672)

Total U.S. deaths: 3,415 (2,575)

Total global cases: 809,608  (745,308)

Total global deaths: 39,454 (35,307)

New York crisis deepens

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo reports that cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state surged 14 percent overnight to more than 75,000, with 1,500 deaths. The governor said the virus has put nearly 11,000 New Yorkers in the hospital -- 2,710 of them in the ICU. He said hospital admissions last night grew by nearly 400.

“I’m tired of being behind this virus,” Cuomo said at his daily briefing with reporters. “We’ve been behind this virus from day one. We underestimated this virus. It’s more powerful, it’s more dangerous than we expected.” 

Unfortunately, Cuomo says there is little relief in sight for the state -- in particular New York City -- since the virus isn’t expected to peak for another two to three weeks.

New safety measures at Walmart

Walmart stores have remained open during coronavirus shutdowns, and now the retailer says it is taking additional safety measures to protect its associates and consumers. The company says it will begin taking the temperature of each employee when they report for work.

Employees with a fever of 100 degrees or higher will be sent home with pay and not be allowed to return until they have been fever-free for three days. Additionally, masks will be offered to any employee who wishes to wear one.

The company says it may take up to three weeks for its stores to receive the necessary infrared thermometers and masks to begin the new policy.

Florida denies cruise ships’ request to dock

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has refused requests from two South American cruise ships to dock in the state because both vessels carry passengers with symptoms of the coronavirus. In fact, some passengers have already died from the illness.

The ships -- the Sandaam and the Rotterdam -- are still at sea, but they are headed for Florida with 300 U.S. citizens among the passengers. DeSantis says he has held discussions with the U.S. Coast Guard and the White House about a course of action.

At this point, DeSantis has remained adamant in his refusal to allow the ships to dock, saying the state’s medical resources are already stretched to the breaking point. Holland America President Orlando Ashford has gone public with his appeal for mercy, writing in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that the situation is “testing our common humanity.”

“To slam the door in the face of these people betrays our deepest human value,” he wrote.

China cases may start rising again

The coronavirus began in China, but over the last few weeks the number of cases has leveled off. Last week, the number of cases in the U.S., with a smaller population, surged past China.

But the Chinese government revealed today that it had not been reporting all coronavirus cases. If someone tested positive but displayed no symptoms, they were not included in the official tally.

The Chinese Health Ministry says it is changing that policy and will now include asymptomatic cases in its count.

Social distancing inadequate, researcher says

Americans have been told to avoid groups and stay at least six feet from other people, but a researcher at MIT says that advice is outdated and woefully inadequate.

Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, associate professor Lydia Bourouiba contends that droplets from a sneeze can travel up to 27 feet, and pathogens can hang in the air for hours.

When an infected person sneezes or coughs, the pathogens will eventually settle on surfaces and contaminate them.

Around the nation

  • Mississippi: Gov. Tate Reeves has signed an order overriding local officials’ measures to contain the coronavirus. Reeves declared nearly every type of business in the state as “essential,” allowing them to remain open.

  • Wisconsin: Health officials have revised estimates on when the virus is expected to peak. Estimates now predict a peak nearly two weeks after the expected national peak on April 15. They say that may relieve some of the stress on hospital ICUs.

  • Rhode Island: State police are stopping all cars on the state’s southern border if they have out-of-state license plates. Occupants who plan to stay in Rhode Island are being required to self-quarantine for 14 days.

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