The worldwide death toll from the coronavirus topped 100,000 on Friday, with the U.S. seeing more than 2,000 deaths in one day, according to the running tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.
The sad milestone comes as Christians around the globe mark a Good Friday unlike any other — in front of computer screens instead of in church pews. Meanwhile, some countries are tiptoeing toward reopening segments of their battered economies.
In Canada, a physician who tweeted about an elderly patient who chose to forgo a ventilator is now asking the government not to forget about community doctors during the pandemic.
On Thursday, Dr. Nadia Alam of Georgetown, Ont., posted a tweet about a 72-year-old man with worsening COVID-19 symptoms she treated that day. Despite the fact that his condition was quickly worsening, Alam said, he did not want to be hooked up to the machine sometimes critical to keep COVID-19 patients alive.
“He turned to me and said ‘If I go, if I die from this, I would rather die looking at the sky. I would rather die looking at my family,'” Alam told CBC’s Rosemary Barton in a Friday interview.
I’m starving. Thirsty. Tired. I wore my N95 mask for 7 hours straight. Careful to conserve my <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/PPE?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#PPE</a>.<br><br>Then I go see a 72 yr old man with poor lung function & <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID%E3%83%BC19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#COVIDー19</a>, on oxygen.<br><br>“I don’t want to die on a machine. I want to see the blue sky.”<br><br>So I sat. And we watched the sky. <a href=”https://t.co/jDoQpIpRwn”>pic.twitter.com/jDoQpIpRwn</a>
Instead, Alam sat with the man, and called his family.
That tweet struck a chord with Canadians as it was shared widely online, but Alam said there is another pressing issue she would like addressed.
While hospitals are already struggling with dangerously low supplies of personal protective equipment like gowns and masks, Alam said many family doctors have already run out completely. And while the government has launched measures to supply hospitals, it’s important local doctors have the equipment they need as well.
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“I know that you’re focused on the hospitals — please don’t forget about the communities,” Alam said, “because that is where we take care of our pregnant patients, that is where we take care of little kids, that is where I take care of my patients with heart failure and cancer, for pain control.”
Earlier on Friday, Prime Minister Trudeau addressed the issue of health-care workers contracting the virus, and the need for hospital workers to have personal protective equipment. He said health workers need to know “that we have their back” and have the support they need. Other health workers have already expressed concern about shortages of the protective gear they need.
The daily briefing outside Rideau Cottage also looked at financial assistance to businesses and the supply of personal protective equipment, but the prime minister also took questions about testing, saying that expanded testing will be a “key part” of the path forward.
After facing calls for more data about what was driving decisions, Canadian federal health officials on Thursday presented modelling information on how the outbreak could unfold.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said that the models aren’t crystal balls — but they “help us to plan and they tell us that our collective actions can have a direct and significant impact on the epidemic trajectory.”
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The models suggest that even with stringent public health measures, Canada could see 4,400 deaths linked to the growing epidemic. That figure — the most optimistic in the models presented — is just one of the projections offered by officials, who stressed that how people behave now will be critical to how the epidemic evolves.
Health officials projected that 11,000 Canadians would die over the course of the pandemic if 2.5 per cent of the population was infected, a number that increased to 22,000 if the infection rate hit five per cent of the population. All the projections are “highly sensitive” to behaviours, Tam said as health officials outlined models with strict measures as well as offering a glimpse into what might have happened without controls.
Public health officials have urged people to stay home, avoid large gatherings and keep up physical distancing, handwashing and other measures.
Trudeau said that people generally come together at this time of year, “but this weekend is going to be very different.”
Families and religious communities will need to find ways to connect despite physical separation. Even Easter egg hunts will be different, Trudeau said, as families stay home.
WATCH | Public health officials want people to stay apart to slow the spread of COVID-19. Here’s a look at how to do that in some tricky situations:
His remarks came a day after he cautioned that public health measures won’t be lifted any time soon, a subject he returned to Friday. He said the government is talking with provinces, experts and industry about how and when restrictions might be lifted — but noted that Canada is still in the “first phase” of the spread of the virus.
He said it’s possible Canada would be out of the first wave this summer, and at that point a loosening of some rules could occur.
“We’ll have to be very careful about how we do that,” he said, noting that the country would still need to be vigilant about a resurgence of the virus.
WHO cautions against easing movement restrictions
Elsewhere, as weeks of lockdowns were extended in nation after nation, world governments were pressed to ease restrictions on key businesses and industries.
After a two-week freeze on all non-essential economic activity, Spain decided to allow factories and construction sites to resume work on Monday, while schools, most shops and offices will remain closed. In Italy, the industrial lobbies in regions representing 45 per cent of its economic output urged the government to ease its two-week lockdown on all non-essential manufacturing, saying the country “risks definitively shutting down its own motor, and every day that passes the risk grows not to be able to restart it.”
The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned that a premature lifting of restrictions could “lead to a deadly resurgence.”
WATCH | WHO warns against lifting restrictions too quickly
He said there had been a “welcome slowing” of the epidemic in some European countries — Italy, Germany, Spain and France — but there had been an “alarming acceleration” elsewhere including community transmission in 16 countries of Africa.
The novel coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV2, was first reported in China in late 2019. There is no known cure or vaccine for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. While most people who contract the illness will experience mild to moderate symptoms, health officials have cautioned that certain segments of the population, including the elderly and people with pre-existing health issues, face a higher risk of severe disease and death.
The Public Health Agency of Canada, which has been posting updated information about the virus, says that COVID-19 is a “serious health threat.” The agency says that risk varies between communities but notes that the overall risk to Canadians is ” considered high.”
Read on for a look at what’s happening in Canada and around the world.
Here’s what’s happening in the provinces and territories
As of 10 p.m. ET on Friday, Canada had more than 22,100 confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19. The provinces and territories that provide data on recovered cases listed more than 6,000 as resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths, which is based on public health information and reporting, lists 621 COVID-19-related deaths in Canada, as well as two coronavirus-linked deaths of Canadians abroad.
British Columbia’s top doctor says she doesn’t plan to build out projections around possible COVID-19 death tolls. “Our modelling is about what we need to prepare for,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said. “As you can see, deaths are not something that can be predicted. It depends on how your outbreak evolves.” Read more about what’s happening in B.C.
Alberta reported its highest single-day death toll with seven fatalities. They include four new deaths at the McKenzie Towne continuing care centre in Calgary, bringing that facility’s total to 17.
Meanwhile, Alberta’s chief medical officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said new mandatory mask requirements are being put in place for health workers at long-term care sites, and staff at continuing care homes will be prevented from moving from facility to facility starting next week. Read more about what’s happening in Alberta.
Saskatchewan announced $50 million in funding to help small and medium businesses impacted by the fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak. Read more about what’s happening in Saskatchewan, including what the premier has said about whether the Emergencies Act should be used.
In Manitoba, a Winnipeg man in his 70s has died, bringing the province’s number of deaths to four. Additionally, three people linked to the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg have tested positive. They are all in self-isolation and Manitoba Health is doing contact tracing, an email obtained by CBC News says. Read more about what’s happening in Manitoba.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the province will quadruple its testing capacity over the course of a month, from 4,000 daily tests today to 16,000 on May 6. Ford says the focus will be on testing vulnerable groups, including those in long-term care homes and health-care workers. Provincial officials said testing resources will be concentrated on people exhibiting symptoms, because those who are asymptomatic could get false negative results.
Schools in Quebec could reopen as early as May, Premier François Legault said Friday. He cited the latest numbers on the coronavirus pandemic as evidence that the first wave is stabilizing, though the province continues to have the most cases in the country. Read more about what’s happening in Quebec, including details about extra staff being sent to hard-hit nursing homes.
New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said Thursday that there’s hope the province could return to “normal in some form this summer.” Higgs said that reopening businesses will depend on how the situation evolves in the coming weeks and months and noted that the economy won’t reopen fully until a vaccine is developed. Read more about what’s happening in N.B.
Nova Scotia doesn’t plan to lift restrictions in place because of COVID-19 until at least June. Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s top health officer, said the summer “is going to look somewhat different than most summers.” Read more about what’s happening in N.S.
Newfoundland and Labrador’s health minister is warning people that the province’s peak is expected later than other provinces — and says that restrictions could be in place for months to come. Read more about what’s happening in N.L.
The Yukon government is offering financial assistance for eligible businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19 and the measures to fight it. Read more about what’s happening across Canada’s North.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in the United States
From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at 11 p.m. ET
New U.S. government figures show novel coronavirus infections will spike during the summer if stay-at-home orders are lifted after 30 days as planned, the New York Times reported on Friday.
The projections outline different scenarios. But if the 30-day stay-at-home order is lifted, the death total is estimated to reach 200,000, the Times said, “even if schools remain closed until summer, 25 per cent of the country continues to work from home and some social distancing continues.”
According to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. saw more than 35,000 new cases on Friday, with 2,108 deaths. The U.S. now has almost half a million cases and more than 18,500 deaths, according to the tally.
Despite that, U.S. President Donald Trump gave a much different projection during the daily White House coronavirus briefing. He said he thinks the United States will lose fewer than the 100,000 lives initially projected, and that he will soon be announcing a second coronavirus task force to focus on re-opening the country after the worst of the pandemic passes.
White House physicians Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx have meanwhile advised Americans to maintain strict social distancing measures until those restrictions are lifted. Both pointed to a levelling of the infection curve, though both said it hasn’t yet “reached the peak.”
WATCH | This isn’t the time to pull back, says Dr. Anthony Fauci:
Earlier Friday, Trump said on Twitter a funding measure to help small businesses should be approved by Congress with no additions, as a partisan skirmish in the U.S. Senate cut short a Republican effort to speed up $250 billion US in new assistance.
“Democrats are blocking a [$251 billion] funding boost for Small Businesses which will help them keep their employees. It should be for only that reason, with no additions. We should have a big Infrastructure Phase Four with Payroll Tax Cuts & more. Big Economic Bounceback!” Trump said in a Twitter post.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and congressional leaders are set to hold bipartisan negotiations on a new coronavirus-response bill with the goal of reaching a deal by early next week, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said on Friday.
WATCH | Drone footage shows bodies in caskets being buried in New York City:
In New York City, officials have shortened the amount of time unclaimed remains will be held before they are buried in the city’s public cemetery, as the city struggles to deal with a mounting death toll and dwindling morgue space.
Under the new policy, the medical examiner’s office will keep bodies in storage for just 14 days before they’re buried in the city’s potter’s field on Hart Island.
Deaths rose by 777 in New York state on Friday, bringing the state’s toll to more than 7,800. Michigan announced 205 new deaths — its highest daily total — up from 117 a day earlier.
Here’s a look at what’s happening around the world
From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at 7:45 p.m. ET
Italian authorities are using helicopters, drones and stepped-up police checks to make sure Italians don’t slip out of their homes for the Easter holiday weekend. The virus has killed more than 18,000 people in Italy and over 95,000 worldwide, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University.
The coronavirus has claimed at least 15,843 lives in Spain and has officially infected 152,446 people, although both the rate of contagion and mortality are dropping, official health ministry data showed Friday. The 605 new deaths recorded overnight were the lowest increase since March 24.
There were encouraging signs in France, where the national health agency saw indications the crisis is stabilizing, though more than 13,000 lives have been lost. The health ministry said 7,004 people were in intensive care, a fall of 62 or 0.9 per cent following a 1 per cent fall on Thursday.
The British government says the U.K. has recorded 980 new deaths of people with the coronavirus, an increase from 881 deaths reported in the previous 24 hours and the highest daily total to date. Health Secretary Matt Hancock says that as of Friday, 8,958 patients have died in hospital after testing positive for the coronavirus in the U.K.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, meanwhile, is in “very good spirits” after returning to a hospital ward from intensive care, but his recovery is at an early stage, his spokesperson said on Friday.
Pope Francis presided over a torch-lit Good Friday procession in an otherwise empty St. Peter’s Square, with nurses and doctors among those holding a cross as the COVID-19 pandemic upended the traditional ceremony at Rome’s Colosseum.
There are more than 134,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the Middle East, including over 5,300 fatalities. Some 4,200 of those deaths are in Iran, which has the largest outbreak in the region. Authorities there had recorded over 68,000 total cases as of Friday.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggested mass gatherings may be barred through the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which runs from late April through most of May.
Turkey announced a two-day lockdown in Istanbul, Ankara and other major cities as the country’s death toll rose above 1,000. The move, which covers 31 provinces, scales up restrictions under which people below the age of 20 and senior citizens have been told to stay at home.
Yemen reported its first case on Friday, as aid groups try to prepare for an outbreak where war has shattered the health system and spread hunger and disease.
China’s Wuhan city, where the pandemic began, is still testing residents regularly despite relaxing its tough two-month lockdown, with the country wary of a rebound as it sets its sights on normalizing the economy.
The total number of novel coronavirus infections in Japan hit 6,003 on Friday, public broadcaster NHK reported.
Early voting in South Korea’s parliamentary election began on Friday with coronavirus patients casting ballots at disinfected polling stations.
All Botswana’s parliamentarians, including the president, will be quarantined for two weeks and tested, after a health worker screening lawmakers for the virus tested positive.
In the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, people desperate for food stampeded, pushing through a gate at a district office in the Kibera slum. Police fired tear gas, injuring several people.
The epidemic has so far infected over 440 people in Burkina Faso, including six government ministers, and killed 24.
WATCH | WHO raises concern about coronavirus escalation in Africa
Chile will start handing out certificates to people who have recovered that will exempt them from adhering to quarantines or other restrictions.
Mexico has recorded its first two deaths of pregnant women from the coronavirus as the reported death toll reached 194, the health ministry said
Brazil’s Health Ministry says a teenager from an Indigenous tribe has died of coronavirus, marking the first resident of an Indigenous community to die from COVID-19 and raising alarm about the spread of the virus in the country’s protected lands. Meanwhile, President Jair Bolsonaro took to the streets of Brasilia on Friday, drawing crowds and greeting followers in his latest public pushback against social isolation measures.
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