US cases top 10K as testing ramps up; Italian deaths vault above China’s

The worldwide coronavirus crisis showed no signs of letting up on Thursday, as Italy’s death toll surpassed China’s, while the United States’s cases surged above 10,000, with officials there moving to bolster testing.

Globally, cases have surpassed 230,000 on over 9,000 deaths. Italy, which has taken aggressive lockdown efforts, has a large elderly population that’s second only to Japan in the industrialized world, and is disproportionately represented in the country’s mounting casualties.

Although Europe is the new front line in the battle to arrest the pandemic, urgency is growing in the world’s largest economy, which issued a “Level 4” travel advisory to discourage any American from traveling abroad.

With New York currently having the largest cluster of COVID-19 cases in the nation, and Washington State continues to see its death toll rise, a growing number of people argue the U.S. should impose a strict quarantine protocol resembling China and Italy. Around the country, states and cities are imposing stiff social distancing policies to keep people from spreading the virus.

“China put together an incredible program of suppressing the epidemic by reducing social contact by up to 80%,” Maciej Boni, an epidemiologist and associate professor of biology at Pennsylvania State University, told Yahoo Finance.

Yet given America’s habits and cultural traditions, “this isn’t something we are going to be able to do here,” Boni added.

President Donald Trump has moved to backstop the economy with a strong dose of fiscal stimulus, and recently directed the industrial sector to sell protective gear to health workers — giving hospitals and medical professionals access to much needed equipment, like masks.

The death toll and confirmed cases keep climbing, especially in the US and EU.

US leans in on testing as cases spike

Trump also vowed to push the federal government to ramp up testing and treatment, which all but guarantees a jump in infection numbers as new cases are discovered. CVS (CVS) announced its first drive-through testing site in Massachusetts, which may become a template for other areas as the U.S. moves to mass test the population — an area in which it lags badly.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said there are now more than 4,100 infections in the state, with New York City accounting for the lion’s share. In addition, Cuomo said the state has ramped up testing, completing 8,000 overnight for a total of 22,000.

In neighboring New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy told Yahoo Finance that four bordering states, including Pennsylvania and Connecticut, are working together on strategies to help flatten the curve of infections and deaths.

Murphy added that he is also reopening a shuttered hospital in the state to help with the bed capacity shortage, Meanwhile, FEMA is setting up two drive-through testing points, in tandem with the two largest health systems in the state, to increase testing capacity.

‘Widespread layoffs’

The strain of the coronavirus outbreak continues to weigh on global markets, as central banks and governments have taken action to mitigate the impact. Wall Street ended the day modestly higher after a brutal sell-off on Wednesday all but wiped out the market gains made during the Trump era.

Although the Trump administration is planning for a $1 trillion-plus stimulus package, data is already beginning to show the grim toll the outbreak is having on the economy. Treasury Sec. Steve Mnuchin spent the day in Congress working on industry bailouts, and plans to put money in the hands of stressed consumers.

Economists say a deep recession is now inevitable, with businesses forced to shutter and public life having turned busy streets into ghost towns.

“Many businesses have been shut down in recent days by efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and this is already causing widespread layoffs,” said UBS Global Wealth Management senior economist Brian Rose.

“Some states have reacted by loosening the rules on claiming unemployment benefits. While this is a wise response in our view, it will result in jobless claims rising that much faster,” Rose added.

Central banks around the world have also moved to boost their economies and asset markets, with the Bank of England on Thursday cutting rates to near-zero.

Despite the positive news from the pharmaceutical sector, Gilead (GILD), which is working on a treatment, is the only stock that has been seeing a bump from the virus. Piper Sandler said Wednesday we could see results from the clinical trials in Washington by April, but a vaccine isn’t expected for at least a year.

Anjalee Khemlani is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @AnjKhem

Javier David is an editor for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter: @TeflonGeek

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