PARIS (AP) — The hunt for ventilators and other medical supplies consumed the U.S. and Europe on Monday, as new coronavirus infections soared and political paralysis stalled efforts for a quick aid package from Congress. Asian markets and U.S. futures both sank as more governments tightened restrictions to fight the pandemic.
Fears grew that densely crowded New York could become one of the world’s biggest coronavirus hotspots, prompting cancelations of everything from play dates to picnics in the park to pickup basketball games. The city’s mayor said hospitals were 10 days away from shortages in “really basic supplies” that seriously endangered both health care workers and patients.
“If we don’t get the equipment, we’re literally going to lose lives,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN.
A surge in infections has caused a critical shortage of medical supplies in many places. Spain erected a field hospital in a convention center. British health workers pleaded for more gear, saying they felt like “cannon fodder.” U.S. President Donald Trump ordered mobile hospital centers be sent to Washington, California and New York.
Health care workers have said they were being asked to reuse and ration disposable masks and gloves. A shortage of ventilators, crucial for treating serious cases of the virus, has become critical.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, promised that medical supplies are about to start pouring in and will be “clearly directed to those hot spots that need it most.”
But efforts for a quick aid package from Congress faltered. The U.S. Senate voted against advancing a nearly $2 trillion economic rescue package. Democrats argued it was tilted toward corporations rather than workers and health care providers. Another vote was expected Monday.
The delay shook investors, as has the accumulation of canceled events large and small, the soaring numbers of unemployed and a general, widespread shrinking in spending. An untold number of burials are going forward with nothing more than a priest, a funeral home staffer and one loved one to bear witness.
Markets reopened to an altered business landscape as lockdowns and closures intended to halt the spread of the new coronavirus expanded over the weekend to include many cities around the world and the number of people infected surged.
U.S. futures slipped more than 3% on Monday and share benchmarks in many Asian markets logged sharp losses.
Worldwide, nearly 340,000 people have been infected and over 14,700 have died from the virus that first emerged in central China late last year. As cases in China ebbed, the dangers to Europe and the U.S. have grown exponentially. After just weeks, the U.S. has more than 33,000 cases and more than 400 deaths. Worldwide, some 99,000 people have recovered, mostly in China.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever or coughing. But for some older adults and people with existing health problems it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky became the first U.S. senator to announce he was infected. Opera superstar Plácido Domingo confirmed he has COVID-19, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel put herself into quarantine after a doctor who gave her a pneumonia vaccine tested positive.
Italy’s infections continued to spike Sunday, hitting 59,000 cases and 5,476 deaths, and India’s prime minister asked, with mixed results, his nation of 1.3 billion people to stay home.
With no end in sight to the global uncertainty, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe acknowledged that a postponement of this year’s Summer Olympics could be unavoidable. Canada and Australia added to the immense pressure on Japan and Olympic organizers by suggesting they wouldn’t send athletes to Tokyo this summer.
The International Olympic Committee’s announced a plan to examine the situation over the next few weeks and make a decision that could include the option to postpone.
“If it is difficult to hold in a complete way, a decision of postponement would be unavoidable,” Abe said.
While other countries struggled to contain the virus, the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus outbreak emerged late last year and the first metropolitan area be locked down, said Monday that it is now allowing for limited movement, both within the city and out of it, as its months-long lockdown gradually eases.
Associated Press reporters around the world contributed to this report.
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