Illinois and New York join California; 70 million lock down to stop coronavirus

Tim Sullivan and Nicole Winfield
Associated Press
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker listens to a question after announcing a shelter in place order to combat the spread of the Covid-19 virus, during a news conference Friday, March 20, 2020, in Chicago.

Illinois and New York state joined California on Friday in ordering all residents to stay in their homes unless they have vital reasons to go out, restricting more than 70 million Americans in the most sweeping measures undertaken yet in the U.S. to contain the coronavirus.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Friday she is watching closely as her counterparts in Illinois, California and New York acted to fend off the kind of onslaught that has caused the health system in southern Europe to buckle. Italy reported its highest single-day death toll, 627, on Friday.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at a press conference on Thursday, March 12, 2020, and announces the closure of schools in Michigan from March 16, 2020, through April 5, 2020.

The U.S. lockdowns encompass the nation’s three biggest cities – New York, Los Angeles and Chicago – as well as No. 8 San Diego and No. 14 San Francisco.

Whitmer said on Friday that “we’re not there” and pushed back against suggestions that she was considering imposing martial law.

“I recognize that not having plans to do something right now does not mean that at some point we may have to take more aggressive action,” she said. “We’re clearly listening and paying attention to what other states are doing.”

The Democratic governor said the state will continue to assess testing numbers and the compliance of Michigan residents with federal guidance that discourages large gatherings and encourages frequent hand-washing and social distancing.

Without more test results, Michigan does not yet have reliable modeling on the potential spread in the state, said Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. State, hospital and commercial labs now are processing about 1,000 coronavirus tests a day, but existing data does not yet give officials “the full picture of the spread of COVID-19 here in Michigan.”

Michigan’s recorded COVID-19 cases grew from more than 300 to more than 500 on Friday.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that starting Sunday, all workers in nonessential businesses must stay home as much as possible, and gatherings of any size will be banned in the state of over 19 million people. California likewise all but confined its 40 million residents on Friday, and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a similar order set to take effect on Saturday for the state’s 12.6 million people.

A pedestrian wearing a protective mask hurries across 5th Avenue that is sparsely populated due to COVID-19 concerns, Friday, March 20, 2020, in New York.

“No, this is not life as usual,” Cuomo said as the death toll in the U.S. topped 200, with at least 35 in his state. “Accept it and realize it and deal with it.”

Exceptions were made for essential jobs and errands, such as buying groceries and medicine, as well as for exercise.

The lockdowns sent another shudder through the markets, where many fear a recession is a near certainty. Stocks tumbled on Wall Street, closing out their worst week since the 2008 financial crisis. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 900 points, ending the week with a 17% loss.

The increasingly drastic measures in the U.S. came as gasping patients filled the wards of hospitals in Spain and Italy, and the global death toll surpassed 11,000, with the virus gaining footholds in new corners of the world. Over a quarter-million people worldwide have been infected, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University, though close to 90,000 of them have recovered.

Italy now has seen over 4,000 deaths – more even than China – and 47,000 infections. The soaring numbers came despite a nationwide lockdown.

The 10 Freeway and 110 Freeway have less vehicles because of the coronavirus outbreak during midday in downtown Los Angeles, Friday, March 20, 2020.

The World Health Organization highlighted the epidemic’s dramatic speed, noting it took more than three months to reach the first 100,000 confirmed cases but only 12 days to reach the next 100,000.

Across the U.S., where the number of infected topped 17,000, governors and public health officials watched the crisis in Europe with mounting alarm and warned of critical shortages of ventilators, masks and other gear at home.

In New York City, health officials told medical providers to stop testing patients for the virus, except for people sick enough to require hospitalization, saying testing is exhausting supplies of protective equipment.

As promised earlier in the week, President Donald Trump officially invoked emergency wartime authority to try to speed production of such equipment.

Countries frantically prepared for a deluge of patients in the coming weeks.

In Britain, the government asked 65,000 retired nurses and doctors to return to work. A convention center and hotels in Madrid were being turned into field hospitals for nearly 10,000 patients.

Detroit News Staff Writer Beth LeBlanc contributed