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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT

Half-million infected worldwide as economic toll rises

The human and economic toll of the lockdowns against the coronavirus mounted Thursday as India struggled to feed the multitudes, Italy shut down most of its industry, and a record-shattering 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in a single week. The U.S. surpassed official Chinese government numbers to become the country with most reported infections.

As the number of cases worldwide topped a half-million and deaths climbed past 24,000, the damage to people’s livelihoods and their well-being from the effort to flatten the rising curve started to come into focus.

In India, where the country’s 1.3 billion people were under orders to stay home, legions of poor were suddenly thrown out of work, and many families were left struggling for something to eat.

“Our first concern is food, not the virus,” said Suresh Kumar, 60, a bicycle rickshaw rider in New Delhi whose family of six relies on his daily earnings of 300 rupees, or $4. “I don’t know how I will manage.”

India has the world’s second-highest number of people living in extreme poverty, with produce peddlers, maids and other low-wage workers living day to day. The government announced a 1.7 trillion rupee ($22 billion) economic stimulus package to deliver monthly rations of grain and lentils to 800 million people.

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What you need to know today about the virus outbreak

The number of people around the world who have contracted the coronavirus has surged past 500,000, and the United States tops the list, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

U.S. deaths have now topped 1,200, in another grim update for a global outbreak that has wreaked havoc on economies and established routines of life. Worldwide, the death toll climbed past 23,000, according to Johns Hopkins’ running count.

Nearly 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week — almost five times the previous record set in 1982 — amid a widespread shutdown caused by the virus. The surge in weekly applications is a reflection of the damage the outbreak is inflicting on the economy. Layoffs are sure to accelerate as revenue collapses at restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, gyms and airlines.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told leaders of the world’s 20 major industrialized nations during an emergency virtual summit that “we are at war with a virus — and not winning it” despite countries’ dramatic measures to seal their borders, shutter businesses and enforce home isolation for well over a quarter of the world’s population.

Here are some of AP’s top stories Thursday on the world’s coronavirus pandemic. Follow APNews.com/VirusOutbreak for updates through the day and APNews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak for stories explaining some of its complexities.

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Trump’s push to open economy could come at cost of lives

WASHINGTON (AP) — The contrast could hardly be more stark. Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York has said that if all of his sweeping, expensive measures to stem the coronavirus saved one life, it would be worth it. President Donald Trump has another view: The costs of shutting down the economy outweigh the benefits, frequently telling Americans that 35,000 people a year die from the common flu.

Though it may seem crass, the federal government actually has long made a calculation when imposing regulations, called “the value of a statistical life,” that places a price tag on a human life. It has been used to consider whether to require seat belts, airbags or environmental regulations, but it has never been applied in a broad public health context.

The question is now an urgent one given that Trump in recent days has latched on to the notion that the cure for the pandemic should not be worse than the disease and argued that “more people are going to die if we allow this to continue” if the economy remains closed. He has targeted a return to a semblance of normalcy for the economy by Easter Sunday, April 12.

Critics say he’s presenting the nation with a false choice at a moment when deaths and infections from the virus are surging.

“We’re not going to accept a premise that human life is disposable,” said Cuomo, whose state has seen far more infections and deaths from COVID-19 than any other state. “And we’re not going to put a dollar figure on human life.”

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Q&A: How can the huge congressional aid package help you?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is poised to approve an unprecedented $2.2 trillion economic rescue package that will provide one-time checks for most Americans and significant enhancements to unemployment benefits. Both will provide much-needed help to those recently laid-off and to financially stressed households as the coronavirus shuts down much of the economy.

Here are some questions and answers about how the legislation can help you:

WHO IS GETTING A CHECK?

Everyone earning up to $75,000 in adjusted gross income — the income on your tax return — and who has a Social Security number will receive a $1,200 payment. The payment steadily declines for those who make more, and phases out for those who earn more than $99,000. For married couples, both adults receive $1,200, with the phase-out starting at $150,000 of income and falling to zero for couples who earn $198,000. Each child will also get $500. For heads of household with one child, the benefit starts to decline at $112,500 and falls to zero at $146,500.

WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO TO GET ONE?

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A new beat for police across US: Enforcing social distance

NEW YORK (AP) — In New York City, they’ve started dismantling basketball hoops to prevent people from gathering in parks and playing. In Lakewood, New Jersey, police broke up a wedding being held in violation of a ban on large gatherings. And in Austin, Texas, officers are encouraging people to call a hotline to snitch on violators of the city’s orders for people to stay home.

Police departments are taking a lead role in enforcing social distancing guidelines that health officials say are critical to containing COVID-19. Along with park rangers, fire inspectors and other public servants, officers more accustomed to chasing suspects and solving crimes are spending these troubled days cajoling people to stay at least 6 feet apart.

“We’re used to crowds, we’re used to lines, we’re used to being close together,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a briefing this week. “No more.”

The no-more mandate has forced the New York Police Department — a squad that normally prides itself on protecting packed crowds like the ones at the Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration — into service dispersing small groups of people on city streets and public spaces.

Instead of the threat of terrorism, they’re trying to stop the spread of a silent killer that as of Thursday had left more than 1,000 people dead in the U.S., at least 280 of them in New York City — all while trying to avoid using a heavy hand.

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On NYC’s front lines, health workers worry they will be next

NEW YORK (AP) — A nurse died from coronavirus after working nonstop for weeks at a hospital where staffers frustrated with dwindling supplies posed in gowns made of trash bags. An emergency room doctor fears he had the virus long before getting too sick to work. Another nurse worries the lone mask she’s issued each day won’t be enough to protect her from an unending tide of hacking, feverish patients.

At New York City-area hospitals on the front lines of the biggest coronavirus outbreak in the nation, workers are increasingly concerned about the ravages of the illness in their own ranks, and that the lack of testing and protective gear is making it not a matter of if they get it, but when.

“Our emergency room was like a petri dish,” said Benny Mathew, a nurse at Montefiore Medical Center who got word Thursday that he had COVID-19 and is now worried he may infect his wife and two daughters.

“I’m angry. We could have secured enough personal protective equipment months ago. It was happening in China since December,” he said. “But we thought it was never going to happen here.”

Some hospitals are now so overrun with dying patients that they’ve brought in refrigerated trucks to handle the bodies. At Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, 13 people succumbed to the virus in one day. City ambulances have seen a surge in calls, responding to nearly 5,800 on Thursday alone.

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Ethanol plants seek rule changes to resupply hand sanitizer

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — As hospitals and nursing homes desperately search for hand sanitizer amid the coronavirus outbreak, federal regulators are preventing ethanol producers from providing millions of gallons of alcohol that could be transformed into the germ-killing mixture.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s roadblock has been frustrating the health care and ethanol industries, which have been calling for a relaxed regulation to deal with the public health care emergency.

“Hand sanitizer is a big part of our lives,” said Eric Barber, CEO of Mary Lanning Healthcare, a hospital in Hastings, Nebraska. “We can’t get any. We order it and it’s just not available.”

The problem for the ethanol industry is that most plants make food-grade ethanol, one step below the highest pharmaceutical grade. But since the plants aren’t certified to comply with stringent production standards designed to protect quality of medicines, food ingredients and dietary supplements, the FDA doesn’t want the alcohol used for a product to be applied to the skin.

In addition, the alcohol is not denatured or mixed with a bitter additive to make it undrinkable. The FDA insists this step is “critical” because of cases of poisoning, sometimes fatal, among young children who have accidentally ingested hand sanitizers.

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Harlem Globetrotters great Curly Neal dies at 77

Fred “Curly” Neal, the dribbling wizard who entertained millions with the Harlem Globetrotters for parts of three decades, has died. He was 77.

The Globetrotters said Neal died in his home outside of Houston on Thursday morning.

“We have lost one of the most genuine human beings the world has ever known,” Globetrotters general manager Jeff Munn said in a statement on Twitter. “Curly’s basketball skill was unrivaled by most, and his warm heart and huge smile brought joy to families worldwide.”

Neal played for the Globetrotters from 1963-85, appearing in more than 6,000 games in 97 countries for the exhibition team known for its combination of comedy and athleticism. He became one of five Globetrotters to have his jersey retired when his No. 22 was lifted to the rafters during a special ceremony at Madison Square Garden in 2008.

Neal was a crowd favorite with his trademark shaved head, infectious smile and ability to dribble circles around would-be defenders. He was a key player during the Globetrotters’ most popular era in the ‘70s and ’80s, appearing on TV shows and specials like “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “Love Boat” and “Gilligan’s Island.”

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VIRUS DIARY: `When are we going to the playground, Mama?’

OAKLAND, California (AP) — “When are we going to the playground, Mama?” she asks again today, like she did yesterday and the day before that.

I tell her we are not going to the playground today, that we can go for a walk, remember the virus we talked about? She chuckles. “Sorry, I was confused. I meant go for a walk.”

We go for a walk but it is probably the last walk for a while, because I am scared and there are people out, still, also taking walks. It doesn’t seem worth it.

I do not tell her this yet.

It’s hard to explain time to a 4-year-old. Each day is new, a new hope that springs her out of bed and demands things, all the things she knows like playgrounds and parks and the coffee shop with her papa and her grandma’s house on Fridays and her cousins’ on Saturdays.

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AP PHOTOS: Stadiums deserted as virus postpones opening day

There was no crack of the bat, no footlong hot dogs, no umpire’s cry of “Play ball!” as opening day came and went for Major League Baseball with games indefinitely postponed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Stands and parking lots were deserted and ticket windows closed at stadiums from New York, the United States’ worst virus hotspot, to San Francisco’s Oracle Park, home of the Giants, where security guard LeJuana Evans wore a black jacket and cap and a white face mask while minding the gate.

Humans were all but absent at the sporting cathedrals where America’s pastime should have kicked off Thursday. In Seattle, a lone grounds crew worker mowed the emerald infield of T-Mobile Park, while in Cleveland, Jason Hackedorn gazed through the shuttered gates of Progressive Field.

In their place stood lonely statues of past legends: Ted Williams, bat resting on his shoulder, placing a cap on the head of a child outside Boston’s Fenway Park; Ken Griffey Jr., frozen post-swing in Seattle as if watching the ball clear the center-field fence; the foursome of Tiger greats Hal Newhouser, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg and Ty Cobb crowning left field in Detroit’s Comerica Park.

League officials have not set a date for when opening day may happen for real.

Associated Press