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US now leads world in confirmed coronavirus cases as 500k reported worldwide

Associated Press

New York – The human and economic toll of the lockdowns against the coronavirus mounted Thursday as India struggled to feed the multitudes and Italy shut down most of its industry. The number of cases in the United States climbed above China, where the virus originated late last year, to become the world’s highest.

As the number of infections worldwide reached a half-million and deaths climbed past 23,000, the damage to people’s livelihoods and their well-being from the effort to flatten the rising curve started to come into focus.

Emergency Restoration co-owner Al David waves to his mother Rose David, 92, after she stopped by to see how the toilet paper handout was going. 
on Thursday, March 26, 2020.

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. Rickshaw drivers, produce peddlers, maids, day laborers and other low-wage workers form the backbone of the economy, and many live day to day on their pay and have no savings to fall back on.

The Indian government announced a 1.7 trillion rupee ($22 billion) economic stimulus package that will deliver monthly rations of grain and lentils to a staggering 800 million people.

Around the globe, the death toll rose to about 8,200 in Italy, 4,100 in Spain and 1,700 in France, including a 16-year-old. The U.S. had more than 1,100 deaths, about 400 of them in New York State, the worst hotspot in the nation. Most of those victims were in New York City, where hospitals are getting swamped.

On Thursday, a running count kept by Johns Hopkins University showed the United States now had the most confirmed cases of any country, with more than 82,000. Italy and China, the latter of which was the origin of the outbreak late last year, both had more than 80,000. Collectively the three countries accounted for about half the global total.

Louisiana was quickly becoming another smoldering hotspot. The number of new cases there jumped by more than 500 Thursday, for a total of over 2,300, with 86 deaths, including a 17-year-old, the health department said. The higher infection numbers reflected an increase in testing. New Orleans was gearing up for a possible overflow at hospitals, with plans to treat as many as 3,000 patients at the city’s convention center.

Elsewhere around the world, South Africa, with the most industrialized economy in Africa, headed into a three-week lockdown starting Friday. The country is already in recession, with an unemployment rate of 29%.

And Britain unveiled another relief effort, this time aimed at the gig economy, many of whose workers are facing financial ruin. The government will give the self-employed grants equal to 80% of their average monthly profits, up to 2,500 pounds ($2,975) per month.

In other developments:

  • In New York, the state’s death toll jumped by 100 in one day, pushing the number to 385, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. He added that experts expect the number to increase as critically ill patients who have been on ventilators for several days succumb to the virus. “That is a situation where people just deteriorate over time,” Cuomo said.
  • China said it is temporarily barring most foreigners from entering as it tries to curb imported cases. Reports of new infections from inside the country have stopped.
  • In the Mideast, Saudi Arabia announced a total lockdown on the capital, Riyadh, and Islam’s two holiest cities, Mecca and Medina, in addition to a nationwide curfew.