The Journal Gazette
Sunday, March 29, 2020 1:00 am

Virus cases climb rapidly in Detroit

'Off the charts' as rest of world continues to fight pandemic

Associated Press

DETROIT – The coronavirus continued its unrelenting spread across the United States with fatalities doubling in two days and authorities saying Saturday that an infant who tested positive had died. It pummeled big cities like New York, Detroit, New Orleans and Chicago, and made its way, too, into rural America as hotspots erupted in small Midwestern towns and Rocky Mountain ski havens.

Elsewhere, Russia announced a full border closure while in parts of Africa, pandemic prevention measures took a violent turn, with Kenyan police firing tear gas and officers elsewhere seen on video hitting people with batons.

Worldwide infections surpassed the 660,000 mark with more than 30,000 deaths as new cases also stacked up quickly in Europe, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. leads the world in reported cases with more than 120,000.

Confirmed U.S. deaths surpassed 2,000 on Saturday, twice the number just two days before, highlighting how quickly infections are escalating. Still, five countries have higher death tolls: Italy, Spain, China, Iran and France. Italy alone has more than 10,000 deaths, the most of any country.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Saturday that an infant with COVID-19 died in Chicago and the cause of death is under investigation. Officials didn't release other information, including whether the child had other health issues.

“If you haven't been paying attention, maybe this is your wake up call,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.

Louisiana has surpassed 3,300 infections with 137 dead from COVID-19, according to the health department. Gov. John Bel Edwards said the region was on track to run out of ventilators by this week.

Cases also have been rising rapidly in Detroit, where poverty and poor health have been problems for years. The number of infections surged to 1,381, with 31 deaths, as of noon Saturday. The city's homeless population is especially vulnerable, officials said.

“At this time, the trajectory of Detroit is unfortunately even more steep than that of New York,” said Dr. Teena Chopra, the medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at the Detroit Medical Center.

“This is off the charts,” she said.

Chopra said many patients have ailments like asthma, heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. She also acknowledged that in Detroit, one of the nation's largest African American cities, there is a distrust among some in the community of the medical system and government due to systemic racism.

President Donald Trump approved a major disaster declaration for Michigan, providing money for the outbreak. He has done the same for New York, Louisiana and Illinois.

The governor of Kansas issued a stay-at-home order to begin Monday, as the virus takes hold in more rural areas where doctors worry about the lack of ICU beds.

Blaine County, Idaho, a scenic ski haven for wealthy tourists, has around 100 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the highest rate per capita outside the New York area. Two people have died.

The virus continues to strain health systems in Italy, Spain and France. Lockdowns of varying degrees have been introduced across Europe, nearly emptying streets in normally bustling cities.

Germany has fewer deaths than some neighboring countries but has closed nonessential shops and banned public gatherings of more than two people until April 20. It still had its share of grim news: 12 residents of a nursing home in the northern town of Wolfsburg have died since Monday after being infected, news agency dpa reported.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez called for a more vigorous response from the European Union. Spain, Italy, France and six other members have asked the union to share the burden of European debt, dubbed “coronabonds” in the media, to help fight the virus. But the idea has met resistance from other members, led by Germany and the Netherlands.

“It is the most difficult moment for the EU since its foundation, and it has to be ready to rise to the challenge,” Sánchez said.

As the epicenter has shifted westward, the situation has calmed in China, where some restrictions have been lifted. Some subway service was restored in Wuhan, where the virus emerged in December, after the city of 11 million had its virus risk evaluation reduced from high to medium.

More than 135,000 people have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins.

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