March 20, 2020 / 2:40 PM / 14 days ago

Californians ordered to stay home; New York pleas for urgent help to fight coronavirus

LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK March 20 (Reuters) - Nearly 40 million Californians have been ordered to stay at home as part of efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus and New York’s mayor on Friday renewed his pleas for U.S. President Donald Trump to mobilize the military for additional medical personnel and supplies.

The pandemic has already upended life in much of the country, shuttering schools and businesses, prompting millions to work from home, forcing many out of jobs and sharply curtailing travel.

Psychologists and psychiatrists are beginning to report signs of distress among patients worried about the consequences.

Six clinicians interviewed by Reuters say the coronavirus has been the prime focus of virtually all recent therapy sessions.

Chicagoan Mike Wisler was prescribed a sedative to help him sleep when the financial and emotional impact of the pandemic hit the 50-year-old bartender. “My mind won’t shut off,” Wisler said. “As soon as I wake up, it’s like, ‘How am I going to get by this month?’”

California Governor Gavin Newsom’s order late on Thursday took immediate effect, putting in place the widest measures to date in United States, where more than 200 people have died and more than 12,000 cases have been confirmed as of early Friday, an increase of 3,000 cases over the previous day.

Click tmsnrt.rs/3dkIMIL for a GRAPHIC on U.S. cases.

More than 1,000 cases have been confirmed in California, where 19 people have died.

Newsom left open the duration of the order, suggesting it could last eight weeks, while expressing confidence that people will abide by orders to stay home except to visit supermarkets, doctors, pharmacies and laundromats. Essential workers will also be allowed to report to work.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called the statewide measure “the moment everything changed.”

“This history is clear and this disease is clear. We have to take steps early. None of us have the adequate infrastructure,” Garcetti said on ABC News on Friday, adding that, “These are acts of love.”

STATES FAULT FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

Elsewhere, state and local officials took their own measures and some faulted the federal government for failing to act urgently enough.

The governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania announced that all barbershops, hair salons, tattoo or parlors and nail salons would be closed as of Saturday.

The virus has taken the greatest death toll in Washington state with 74. New York City, where 26 people have died, has about 4,000 cases, or roughly one-third the national total.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio criticized Trump for what he said was a lack of action and responsiveness.

“The president is an absence,” de Blasio told MSNBC television. “We don’t have masks, we don’t have ventilators.”

“We have to recognize at this point we’re running out of options in many places, and New York is really the front line of this battle,” he said.

The Democratic mayor said that unless Republican Trump deployed the military, New York hospitals could run out of medical supplies in a matter of weeks.

The U.S. electric industry may ask essential staff to live on site at power plants and control centers to keep operations running if the coronavirus outbreak worsens. Power plants have been stockpiling beds, blankets, and food, according to industry trade groups and electric cooperatives.

“The focus needs to be on things that keep the lights on and the gas flowing,” said Scott Aaronson, vice president of security and preparedness at the Edison Electric Institute.

Meanwhile, the U.S. unemployment benefits program, part of the safety net for the labor market, is about to face its biggest test in more than a decade.

More than 1.5 million applications could be filed this week, economists said, as people who work for restaurants, bars, hotels and other businesses suddenly find themselves out of work.

“States are just not in a position to respond to this,” said Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. government is moving its tax filing day to July 15 from April 15, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said on Friday.

The public health measures meant to control the virus are also strangling the economy. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease official, said stringent measures would be needed for several more weeks.

“I cannot see that all of a sudden next week or two weeks from now it’s going to be over. I don’t think there’s a chance of that,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC News.

Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Maria Caspani in New York; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu, Susan Heavey, Nick Brown and Jonnelle Marte; writing by Daniel Trotta; editing by Grant McCool

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