California issues 'stay home' order; U.S. death toll hits 200
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[March 20, 2020]
By Dan Whitcomb and David Shepardson
LOS ANGELES/WASHINGTON, (Reuters) -
California issued an unprecedented statewide "stay at home" order on
Thursday for its 40 million residents and Washington warned Americans to
return home or stay abroad indefinitely, as the number of coronavirus
deaths in the country hit 200.
Governor Gavin Newsom's directive, effective immediately, marks the
largest and most sweeping government clampdown yet in the worsening
public health crisis brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak, which he
predicted could infect more than half the state within eight weeks.
As authorities ramped up measures to keep the virus from spreading,
Washington could announce restrictions on travel across the U.S.-Mexico
border as soon as Friday, limiting crossings to essential travel, two
officials briefed on the matter said. That would follow a similar
measure on Wednesday closing the border with Canada.
The fast-spreading respiratory illness has shattered most patterns of
American life: shuttering schools and businesses, prompting millions to
work from home, forcing many out of jobs and sharply curtailing travel.
The U.S. State Department told citizens that if they travel
internationally, "your travel plans may be severely disrupted, and you
may be forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite
With the economy swooning, Senate Republicans unveiled a $1 trillion
economic stimulus plan to provide funds directly to businesses and the
American public. President Donald Trump has been eagerly calling for
It would be Congress' third emergency coronavirus bill following a $105
billion-plus plan covering free coronavirus testing, paid sick leave and
expanded safety-net spending, and an $8.3 billion measure to combat the
spread of the highly contagious pathogen and develop vaccines.
The plunging stock market and surging U.S. death toll has caused Trump
to sharply change his tone on the disease this week, demanding urgent
action after spending weeks downplaying the risks.
Over 13,000 people across the United States have been diagnosed with the
illness called COVID-19 and 200 have died, with the largest numbers so
far in Washington state, New York and California. https://tmsnrt.rs/3dkIMIL
Newsom said his 'stay at home' order was essential as modelling showed
56% of California's 40 million people would contract the virus in the
next eight weeks, and require nearly 20,000 more hospital beds than the
state could provide.
"We are confident the people of California will abide by it, they will
meet this moment," Newsom, a first-term Democrat told a news briefing
from the state capital in Sacramento.
Los Angeles, as the nation's second-largest city, would likely be
"disproportionately impacted" in the coming weeks, he said.
Two Los Angeles Lakers players have the coronavirus, the NBA franchise
said on Thursday, after four players from the Brooklyn Nets tested
positive for the disease a day earlier.
The virus has taken the greatest toll in Washington state, which
reported eight more deaths on Thursday, bringing the toll there to 74.
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California governor Gavin Newsom speaks at a news conference in San
Diego, California, U.S. October 9, 2019. REUTERS/ Mike Blake
Hospitals across the country say they face shortages of medical
gear, with doctors in Seattle reduced to making their own face masks
out of sheets of plastic.
"We're days away from running out of the equipment we need," said
Melissa Tizon, Associate Vice President of Providence St. Joseph
Health, which runs 51 hospitals across five western states. "We're
expecting more shipments later on but until then we've got to
With the United States slow to roll out mass testing for the virus
that has infected more than 244,000 people worldwide, officials fear
the number of known cases of the respiratory illness that can lead
to pneumonia lags far behind reality.
There are no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19, but
several options are being tested.
New York City, where many young people last weekend packed local
bars and restaurants, has been eerily deserted after nightfall.
"It's a skater's dream," said Dyanna Hernandez, 20, who had joined a
dozen friends in Manhattan's Union Square to enjoy the freedom of
what she called a "ghost city" after three days stuck at home. "I
can't really be quarantined."
The epidemic, which has killed over 10,000 globally so far, has
drawn comparisons with traumatic periods such as World War Two, the
2008 financial crisis and the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.
The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits surged by
the most since 2012 to a 2-1/2-year high last week, as companies in
the services sector laid off workers with businesses shutting down
due to the pandemic.
Katie Vetere, 32, general manager of One 53, a small restaurant near
Princeton, New Jersey, applied for benefits for the first time in
her life after the restaurant was forced to shut down when state
authorities banned table service.
Vetere expects her benefits to be less than half her regular weekly
"I go from 'I'm sad' to 'I'm scared' to 'I'm angry,'" she said. "Do
I consider my job lost? I don't know."
(Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Jeff Mason in
Washington, Laila Kearney, Jonathan Allen, Gabriella Borter and
Leela de Kretser in New York, Steve Gorman and Dan Whitcomb in Los
Angeles and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Writing by James Oliphant and
Bill Tarrant; Editing by Scott Malone, Daniel Wallis & Simon
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