NEW YORK (AP) — The Tokyo Olympics were put off to next year as coronavirus deaths and infections surged in Europe and the U.S. on Tuesday, with New York warning it is about to get hit by a “bullet train.” Stocks soared as Washington lawmakers closed in on a nearly $2 trillion deal to help businesses and ordinary Americans pull through the crisis.
Around the globe, India, with 1.3 billion people, or one-sixth of the Earth’s population, ordered the biggest lockdown in the world. A flicker of hope that Italy might be turning the corner faded after officials reported an increase in new cases and deaths. And Spain had so many bodies it commandeered an ice rink to store them.
More than 400,000 people worldwide have been infected and over 18,500 have died, according to a running count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
In New York City, now one of the biggest hot spots, authorities rushed to set up thousands of hospital beds for potential victims. But the number of cases is doubling every three days, threatening to swamp the city’s intensive care units in the weeks ahead, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. New York state has recorded more than 200 deaths, or about one-third of the U.S. total.
“One of the forecasters said to me we were looking at a freight train coming across the country,” the governor said. “We’re now looking at a bullet train.”
Cuomo proposed that the country send thousands of ventilators to New York City — the metropolitan area needs 30,000 of them, he said — and demanded that President Trump use wartime authority to force manufacturers to produce them.
“People said it’s a war. It is a war. Then act like it’s a war!” Cuomo said.
Trump has invoked the Korean War-era Defense Production Act to deter hoarding but has been reluctant to use it to force companies to produce medical supplies. Vice President Mike Pence said on Fox News that 2,000 ventilators have been shipped to New York and 2,000 more will be sent Wednesday.
Dr. Deborah Birx, who’s leading the U.S. response to COVID-19, told reporters that people leaving New York City should quarantine themselves for two weeks.
The International Olympic Committee postponed the 2020 Tokyo Olympics until the summer of 2021 at the latest, acting on the recommendation of Japan’s prime minister. That could be a heavy economic blow to Japan and could upset athletes’ training regimens, perhaps costing some of them a shot at a medal.
Still, the decision was met with relief from some competitors.
“A huge decision but I think the right one for sure,” British sprinter Adam Gemili said on Twitter. “Time to regain, look after each other during this difficult period and go again when the time is right!”
With infections in the U.S. exceeding 50,000, including more than 700 deaths, public health experts have warned that failing to maintain social distancing would balloon infections to the point that the health care system would be overwhelmed and many more people would die.
Spain, meanwhile, registered a record one-day increase of nearly 6,600 new infections and a leap of more than 500 in the death toll to over 2,800.
The country started storing bodies in an ice rink converted to a morgue until they could be buried or cremated. Also, army troops disinfecting nursing homes discovered elderly people living amid the corpses of suspected coronavirus victims. Prosecutors opened an investigation.
Spain’s Interior minister said police have arrested more than 900 people for defying the government’s order to stay home.
As health care workers worked around the clock, they also struggled with scarce supplies.
“All over the country, you see examples of workers inventing homemade suits using plastics,” said Olga Mediano, a lung specialist at a hospital in Guadalajara, a city outside Madrid.
In Italy, a jump in the number of new deaths and cases over the last 24 hours dashed hopes fed by two days of declines. The 743 deaths reported Tuesday pushed Italy’s toll past 6,800, by far the highest of any country.
“Woe to whoever lets down the guard,’’ Health Minister Roberto Speranza said. ”Now, more than ever, the commitment of everyone is needed.”
In a distinct shift in the crisis, some 85% of new infections are ocurring in Europe and the United States. In fact, Chinese authorities said they would finally end the two-month lockdown in hard-hit Hubei province, where the outbreak first began.
Elsewhere around the world, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi decreed a “total lockdown” of the country for 21 days. India has reported about 500 cases.
“To save India and every Indian, there will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes,” Modi said.