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Coronavirus Update

Coronavirus Update: Testing Stalls as Cases Surpass 140,000

Hospitalman Apprentice Kaylah Jenkins dons personal protective equipment during infection control training aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) as the ship sails on its way to New York City U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Sara Eshleman) (Sara Eshleman/U.S Navy via Reuters)

On Sunday, President Trump extended social-distancing guidelines through the end of the month, after having suggested they might be lifted on Easter. The current guidelines advise Americans to avoid traveling, eating out, and gathering in groups of more than 10 people. The president expressed hope that the United States will have already begun its recovery by June 1.

More than 140,000 cases have been confirmed in the U.S., with deaths surpassing 2,500. The situation in New York remains severe, with hospitals reporting shortages of protective equipment and ventilators. New Jersey, Michigan, and Illinois are all on paths to severe outbreaks as well.

Graph: Daniel Tenreiro

The outbreak in Michigan is particularly alarming because the state lags in per-capita testing capacity. Louisiana and Massachusetts have roughly similar case numbers to Michigan, but much higher testing capacity. While New York and Washington continue to ramp up testing, numerous other states, most notably California, are far behind.

Graph: Daniel Tenreiro, U.S. Census Bureau

The death toll in New York surpassed 1,000 on Sunday, as Governor Cuomo said the state would run out of medical supplies within a week absent federal support. On Friday, President Trump ordered General Motors to “accept, perform, and prioritize Federal contracts for ventilators” under the Defense Production Act.

Graph: Daniel Tenreiro

Meanwhile, testing in the U.S. has dropped off in recent days. That may be due to a reported shortage of the swabs required for testing kits. On March 18, the U.S. Air Force flew 500,000 testing swabs from Italy to Tennessee, enough for roughly five days of national testing at its current level.

Graph: Daniel Tenreiro


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