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Trump: US facing 'painful two weeks'

By WILLIAM HENNELLY and SCOTT REEVES in New York | | Updated: 2020-04-01 11:04
US President Donald Trump stands in front of a chart labeled "Goals of Community Mitigation" showing projected deaths in the United States after exposure to coronavirus as 1,500,000 - 2,200,000 without any intervention and a projected 100,000 - 240,000 deaths with intervention taken to curtail the spread of the virus during the daily coronavirus response briefing at the White House in Washington, March 31, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

US President Donald Trump warned of a "very painful two weeks ahead" on Tuesday as the nation's death toll from the coronavirus pandemic surpassed 3,800.

Health experts at the White House revealed grim statistics showing that even with all the preventive measures in place, such as social distancing and the massive closing of businesses, anywhere from 100,000 to 240,000 Americans could die of COVID-19.

As of Wednesday morning, the United States, which is leading the world in terms of confirmed cases, has reported 189,510 infections, showed the tally updated by the university's Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

There was a bright spot in the data, though.

Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, said stay-at-home orders and social distancing may be paying off, as the rate of increase in new infections appears to be declining.

"The daily increases are not in that steep incline," Fauci said.

However, evidence of "flattening the curve" is preliminary.

The captain of the US aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt has called on Navy leadership for stronger measures to save the lives of his sailors and stop the spread of the coronavirus aboard the ship.

The four-page letter described a bleak situation on board the nuclear-powered carrier as some 70 sailors have tested positive for the virus.

The outbreak has continued to decimate US stock markets and businesses.

Wall Street's three major indices tumbled Tuesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average registering its biggest quarterly decline since 1987, while the S&P 500 sustained its deepest quarterly drop since the financial crisis of 2008.

The S&P 500 and the Dow both finished the first quarter more than 20 percent below the end of 2019.

On Tuesday, the Dow fell 410.32 points, or 1.84 percent, to 21,917.16; the S&P 500 lost 42.06 points or 1.60 percent, to 2,584.59; and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 74.05 points, or 0.95 percent, to 7,700.10.

Ford Motor Co said Tuesday it will halt production until further notice, setting aside plans to recall employees.

Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler shut down production at nearly all their North American plants on March 20.

Ford had planned to restart production in Mexico on April 6, followed by reopening factories April 14 in Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio.

The United Auto Workers union has cited several coronavirus-related deaths among its members.

Johnson & Johnson said that it plans to begin human clinical trials on its coronavirus vaccine in September. The drug could be available for emergency use in early 2021, the company said.

Moderna, a US biotech company, sent its vaccine to government researchers for testing in February. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said the first doses were administered to trial participants in early March.

Retailers nationwide announced plans to furlough workers as sales collapse. Macys said it plans to temporarily lay off 125,000 workers, and Kohl's will do the same for about 85,000 employees. Gap Inc, which owns The Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy, said it would be "pausing pay" for most store workers in the US and Canada until stores reopen.

A researcher at MIT says current social distancing guidelines may not be stringent enough to limit spread of the virus.

Associate Professor Lydia Bourouiba has studied the dynamics of coughs and sneezes at MIT's Fluid Dynamics of Disease Transmission Lab and found that exhalations can create clouds that travel as much as 27 feet.

"There's an urgency in revising the guidelines currently being given by WHO and the CDC on the needs for protective equipment, particularly for the front-line health care workers," she told USA Today.

Also, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told NPR on Monday that the agency's policy on masks "is being aggressively reviewed as we speak".

Dr Robert Redfield said that "now you have individuals that may not have any symptoms that can contribute to transmission, and we have learned that in fact they do contribute to transmission".

The CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) have previously advised against the wearing of masks by uninfected persons.

In Italy, officials said the epidemic may be slowing after three weeks of a nationwide lockdown. But they said that further reductions in the rate of new infections are needed, and no steps will be taken to re-start the economy until after Easter, April 12, at the earliest.

Reuters contributed to this story.

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