US now leads world in coronavirus cases
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US now leads world in coronavirus cases

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The number of people around the world who have contracted coronavirus has surged past 500,000, and the United States tops the list, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

That comes as U.S. deaths from the pandemic have now topped 1,100, in another grim milestone for a global outbreak that is taking lives and wreaked havoc on economies and established routines of life. Worldwide, the death toll climbed past 23,000, according to Johns Hopkins' running count.

Nearly 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week — almost five times the previous record set in 1982 — amid a widespread shutdown caused by the virus. The surge in weekly applications is a stunning reflection of the damage the viral outbreak is inflicting on the economy. Layoffs are sure to accelerate as the U.S. economy sinks into a recession with revenue collapsing at restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, gyms and airlines.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told leaders of the world’s 20 major industrialized nations during an emergency virtual summit that "we are at war with a virus — and not winning it” despite countries' dramatic measures to seal their borders, shutter businesses and enforce home isolation for well over a quarter of the world's population.

According to a running count by Johns Hopkins University, the number of people infected in the U.S. topped 82,000 on Thursday. That's just ahead of the 81,000 cases in China and 80,000 in Italy.

Italy has the most confirmed deaths of any country with more than 8,000. More than 1,000 people have died in the U.S.

Meanwhile, the human and economic toll of the lockdowns against the coronavirus mounted Thursday as India struggled to feed the multitudes, Italy shut down most of its industry, and a record-shattering 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in a single week.

In New York, where more than half of the U.S. cases have been reported, exhausted hospital workers are turning to increasingly desperate measures to combat the virus.

New York Bellevue Hospital Center created a makeshift morgue using tents and refrigerated trucks. At Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens, 13 patients died from coronavirus within 24 hours.

A nurse, not named by CNN, posted on social media that patients are streaming in with "non stop coughing, sweaty, fevers" and with "fear in their eyes."

"I cry for the ones who passed away. I cry because we intubated 5 patients within 10 min and im terrified. I cry for my co workers, because we know it will get worse and I already feel like that is impossible and we are already at our breaking point, I cry for the parents, children, siblings, spouses who cannot be with their loved ones who may be dying but cant have visitors because there is no visiting allowed," the nurse added.

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.

Companies in Europe are laying off workers at the fastest pace since 2009, according to surveys of business managers. And the U.S. is bleeding jobs as well: The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits last week was nearly five times the old record, set in 1982.

In a rare positive sign, stocks rallied on Wall Street for the third straight day after an unprecedented $2.2 trillion economic rescue package to help businesses, hospitals and ordinary Americans pull through the crisis won passage in the Senate. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped more than 1,350 points, or over 6%.

The rescue plan, which is expected to be voted on in the House on Friday, would dispense checks of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child.

President Donald Trump, meanwhile, announced that federal officials are developing guidelines to rate counties by risk of virus spread, as he aims to ease the restrictions meant to slow the outbreak.

Italy, the eurozone's third-biggest economy and a major exporter of machinery, textiles and other goods, became perhaps the first Western developed nation to idle most of its industry, extending a shutdown on smaller, nonessential businesses to heavy manufacturers.

Among the companies in Italy that have shut down or rolled back production: Fiat Chrysler, Ferrari, Pirelli tires and Luxottica eyewear, maker of Ray-Bans and Oakleys.

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. In the United Arab Emirates, authorities announced an overnight weekend lockdown and used drones to tell people to stay home.

--The leaders of the Group of 20 major industrialized nations held a video summit for safety reasons and vowed to work together to confront the crisis but made no specific commitments.

--In Brazil, the country's governors are defying President Jair Bolsonaro over his call to reopen schools and businesses, dismissing his argument that the "cure" of widespread shutdowns is worse than the disease. As of Thursday, the country had more than 2,500 cases and 59 deaths.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

So far, more than 120,000 people have recovered, according to a running count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

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Long reported from Washington, Rising reported from Berlin and Schmall from New Delhi. Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.

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