Crisis in Europe, now the pandemic’s epicenter, keeps getting worse.
Italy has imposed a lockdown, deployed the army and risked its economy to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Yet its toll is growing more staggering by the day: On Saturday, officials reported 793 additional deaths, by far the largest single-day increase so far. Italy has surpassed China as the country with the highest death toll, becoming the epicenter of a shifting global pandemic.
And the virus’s effects are being felt throughout Europe. Poland has reported fewer than 500 cases, but one of the country’s hospitals was shut down and evacuated on Saturday after 30 patients and staff members were found to have the virus. France, one of the hardest hit countries in Europe, raised its totals to 14,459 confirmed cases and 562 deaths, and said it had ordered over 250 million face masks from French and foreign suppliers.
The governor of the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg asked hospitals in his state to estimate capacity in their intensive care units, so that French patients in need of respirators from the heavily hit Alsace region can be transferred for treatment.
The German authorities banned people in Berlin from meeting in groups of more than 10 people, with the exception of lawmakers, courts and those providing essential services, and Spain’s health ministry reported a surge in the number of coronavirus deaths to 1,326 and total cases to 25,000, a rise of about 25 percent from a day earlier.
In the Madrid region, which has had 60 percent of Spain’s cases, hospitals are overflowing and facing equipment shortages. Officials ordered that a field hospital with about 5,500 beds be set up in the Spanish capital’s main exhibition center. In the Valencia region, three field hospitals have been added, with a combined 1,000 beds. Hotels have also been converted into hospitals in Madrid and Catalonia, where 122 people have died.
But Italy’s struggle is among the world’s most pronounced, and it is increasingly being seen as a tragic warning for other countries to heed, in part because it is still paying the price of early mixed messages by scientists and politicians. The people who have died in staggering numbers recently — more than 2,300 in the last four days — were mostly infected during the confusion of a week or two ago.
As states raise alarms over supplies, Trump says companies are stepping up.
The White House signaled Saturday that American companies were increasing efforts to restock hospitals with crucial supplies during the coronavirus pandemic, but it again stopped short of more assertive steps that some state and local leaders have been demanding.
At a news conference on Saturday at the White House, Vice President Mike Pence said the federal government had ordered “hundreds of millions” of N-95 masks for health care facilities across the country, but he did not say precisely when they would be delivered to workers. And President Trump said another company, Hanes, was now on the roster of major corporations coordinating with the administration.
The White House’s moves appeared unlikely to satisfy calls for more aggressive action from Washington as the nation grappled with a coast-to-coast reorientation of American life. More than 21,000 cases have been confirmed in the United States, a number expected to soar in the coming weeks.
Officials in a number of states, including New York and California, have issued dire predictions and warned of dwindling supplies of crucial gear, like protective equipment, and what they believe will be a vast demand for ventilators.
Mr. Trump has sent conflicting signals on how the federal government might solve the supply issues. On Saturday, he said that he had not used the Defense Production Act — which empowers the government to mobilize the private sector to increase the production of scarce goods — because companies were stepping up voluntarily. He cited Hanes and General Motors, which he said would make masks and ventilators.
“We want them on the open market from the standpoint of pricing,” Mr. Trump said.
A Hanes spokesman said the company had agreed to make up to six million masks a week along with a group of other yarn and clothing companies after Trump administration officials reached out about a week ago. The masks will not be the highly sought-after N-95 masks. Hanes is negotiating a contract with the U.S. government to supply the masks at market rates, the spokesman said.
Other companies the administration announced coordination with include Honeywell and 3M. Mr. Trump also said Pernod Ricard USA had repurposed production facilities in four states to manufacture hand sanitizer, with the first delivery expected on Tuesday. Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, said on Saturday that the company would donate millions of masks to health professionals fighting the virus in the U.S. and Europe.
Also on Saturday, a spokesman for Mr. Pence said he and his wife, Karen Pence, had tested negative for the coronavirus. They were tested after an official in Mr. Pence’s office was confirmed to be infected.
Hawaii orders a 14-day quarantine for anyone arriving in the state.
Gov. David Ige of Hawaii, seeking to slow the increase of coronavirus cases in his state, on Saturday ordered a mandatory 14-day quarantine for everyone arriving in Hawaii, including both tourists and returning residents. He said his order was the first of its kind in the nation.
“The threat of Covid-19 is extremely serious, and it requires extreme actions,” he said in a news conference.
Under Mr. Ige’s emergency proclamation, returning residents are to quarantine in their homes, with visitors to stay in their hotel rooms or rented lodgings. They are to leave only to seek medical care.
Mr. Ige said in a Facebook post that failure to follow the order would be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $5,000, up to a year’s imprisonment or both.
The Hawaii Department of Health on Saturday reported 48 cases of coronavirus in the state, an increase of 11 from the day before. A majority of the state’s cases are linked to travel, according to Mr. Ige.
The mandate will go into effect on Thursday. The governor said the delay was to give tourists time to cancel or postpone their trips, which he said he hoped they would do.
“We know that our economy will suffer from this action,” he said. But it is necessary, he added, to “flatten the curve” so that the state’s health care system is not overwhelmed.
Must the Olympics go on? Athletes and others are saying no.
The international sports calendar has been wiped almost clean by the coronavirus pandemic, but the organizers of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo — seemingly unwilling to meddle just yet with years of planning and billions of dollars in anticipated revenue — insist the Games can begin in late July as scheduled.
But they are now facing a groundswell of pushback from some of their own athletes, fans and national Olympic officials, who are increasingly vocal in calling for a delay.
One of the biggest cracks in the usual Olympic solidarity came Friday when U.S.A. Swimming, which governs the sport in the United States, called for a postponement because the restrictions imposed to fight the virus were creating obstacles to training. The next day, U.S.A. Track & Field also requested a delay.
Norway’s national Olympic committee, in a statement on Friday, became the first to clearly state a preference for the Olympics to be delayed until the pandemic can be brought under control. The Brazilian Olympic committee on Saturday also endorsed postponing the Games until 2021.
And there were signs of pressure within Japan, with a member of its Olympic committee coming out in favor of a postponement.
“Opening the Olympics at a time when athletes could not train as much as they wanted to runs counter to the motto of ‘athletes first,’” Kaori Yamaguchi, a member of the Japanese Olympic committee board who won a bronze medal in judo in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, said in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun. “The Games should be postponed.”
Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, said in an interview on Thursday that the Games would not be canceled. And while he left open the possibility of postponing them, he said a decision did not have to be made soon.
Why is this happening?
A widespread buying of masks by anxious consumers and the prolonged outbreak in China diminished the supply. Even before the coronavirus emerged, China produced about half of the world’s masks. During the outbreak, it expanded its mask production by nearly 12-fold but continues to hoard its supply.
The outbreak also came after a particularly mask-intensive few months. Wildfires in California and in Australia had already diminished some humanitarian organizations’ supplies.
Ideally, clinicians would be using a new, tightly-sealed respirator, like the N95, with each patient. These are thicker than standard surgical masks, and are designed to fit more tightly around the mouth and nose to block out much smaller particles.
The Food and Drug Administration said that neither surgical masks nor N95s should be shared or be reused, but the C.D.C. updated its recommendations to optimize the limited supply of protective gear.
“As a last resort,” the C.D.C. said “homemade masks” like a bandanna or a scarf can be used, although their protective ability is unknown.
Experts say masks and respirators are not effective for protecting the general public, but are crucial for health care workers.
Parts of Australia begin locking down as case numbers climb.
Australia’s largest state began a major lockdown of nonessential services on Sunday, fencing off beaches all over Sydney and calling for people to stay home, as national health officials announced that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country had risen to 1,098.
The stricter measures for the state, New South Wales, suggest that officials in Australia, like those in other countries, were shifting away from an initial moderate approach — in part, because the public was not complying. On Friday, thousands flooded Bondi Beach in Sydney despite warnings against large gatherings, leading to an outright ban on beachgoing up and down the coast.
New South Wales health officials on Sunday confirmed a spike in cases to 533, with clusters from a mix of sources: a beachfront bar in Bondi Beach; a church service in Western Sydney; and five cruise ships that have docked in Sydney since March 7. One cruise ship, the Ruby Princess, which arrived in Sydney on March 19, now has 18 confirmed cases.
Health officials said they were reaching out to people who might have had contact with anyone infected at these events, or on the cruise ships. But as cases spike nationwide — they have doubled in the past week — other parts of Australia are also embracing stricter approaches.
The state of Victoria, which includes Melbourne, announced that schools would be shut down as of Tuesday. South Australia, which has fewer than 100 cases, announced that any new arrivals from out of state would be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
“As we enter the next phase of the epidemic in Australia, we are taking broad-ranging action to stay ahead of the curve,” said Stephen Wade, South Australia’s minister for health and well-being.
New restrictions were also being imposed elsewhere in the Asia Pacific. Singapore, which reported its first two deaths from the virus on Saturday, said it would stop letting short-term visitors enter or transit through the country as of late Monday. Foreigners with valid work visas will only be allowed in if they perform essential services, such as health care.
Ways you can help (besides staying home).
Schools and businesses have closed. Local economies have unraveled. Medical facilities, which are bearing the brunt of the outbreak, are facing a shortage of crucial supplies.
But there are ways to lend a helping hand. Those seeking to only give money could consider donating to GlobalGiving, which connects nonprofits, donors and companies. Money received will help send emergency medical workers to communities in need.
Relief International focuses on supporting medical professionals with supplies. It operates in 16 countries and it recently focused its efforts on helping Iran, where more than 20,000 infections have been reported. Similarly, Heart to Heart International is distributing urgently needed equipment and medication to its global partners.
The outbreak has caused a severe blood shortage, according to the American Red Cross. It’s now asking healthy donors to give blood, platelets or plasma.
Keeping families and children fed while schools are closed is a concern for many communities. World Central Kitchen works to distribute meals to children in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Little Rock, Ark. The program will expand to Los Angeles on Monday. The Covid-19 Response fund from Feeding America will support thousands of food pantries and hundreds of food banks across the country.
Airlines, UPS and FedEx pledge to postpone layoffs in return for a bailout.
In a letter to congressional leaders on Saturday, the chief executives of major airlines, UPS and FedEx said that they would postpone mass layoffs and stock buybacks and dividends if Congress secured a large enough bailout for their industry.
“We are united as an industry and speaking with one voice,” wrote the group, which included the heads of Southwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines. “We urge you to swiftly pass a bipartisan bill with worker payroll protections to ensure that we can save the jobs of our 750,000 airline professionals.”
If Congress approves at least $29 billion in grants for the industry, the executives said they would commit to no furloughs or layoffs through August. If an equal amount in loans is passed, they would commit to limits on executive compensation and to freezing stock buybacks and dividends for the life of the loan.
In a separate letter to senators on Saturday, Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants union, echoed the call for grants tied to employment, criticizing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan to provide the industry with loans.
“Federal aid designed for payroll is the only way to prevent massive layoffs,” she said. “Loans won’t cut it.”
Ms. Nelson also said that such aid should be tied to limits on buybacks, executive pay and dividends, as well as protecting union contracts.
Trump wrote to Kim Jong-un offering help, North Korea says.
President Trump sent a letter to North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, expressing his willingness to help the North battle the coronavirus, according to North Korea, which responded by expressing gratitude.
“I would like to extend sincere gratitude to the U.S. president for sending his invariable faith to the Chairman,” said Kim Yo-jong, the North Korean leader’s sister and policy aide, in a statement carried by the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency. Ms. Kim lauded Mr. Trump’s decision to write the letter as “a good judgment and proper action.”
In the letter, Mr. Trump “wished the family of the Chairman and our people well-being,” Ms. Kim said, referring to his brother by one of his official titles.
According to Ms. Kim, Mr. Trump also explained his…