National Notebook

Coronavirus infections in US top China’s total

To guard against the coronavirus, a cashier worked behind a plastic shield at a Super H Mart in Niles, Ill.
To guard against the coronavirus, a cashier worked behind a plastic shield at a Super H Mart in Niles, Ill.Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press/Associated Press

Scientists had warned that the United States someday would become the country hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. That moment arrived Thursday.

In the United States, at least 81,321 people are known to have been infected with the coronavirus, including more than 1,000 deaths — more cases than China, Italy, or any other country has seen, according to data gathered by The New York Times.

With about 330 million residents, the United States is the world’s third most populous nation, meaning it provides a vast pool of people who can potentially get COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

As the highly contagious virus has created clusters of illness, from Seattle to New York City, deaths havr followed.


New York state’s death toll from the coronavirus jumped by 100 in one day, pushing the number to 385, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.

He added that the experts expected 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. “And that is what we’re seeing.”

There are now more than 37,000 confirmed cases in the state. The figure does not represent all COVID-19 cases, since an unknown number of infected people have not been tested.

More than 5,300 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized statewide as of Thursday, a 40 percent increase from the day before. Nearly 1,300 patients were in intensive care, a 45 percent increase.

Hospitals in New York City are trying to deal with the growing crush of patients and need for medical equipment like face masks and ventilators.

The Washington Post is tracking every known US death, analyzing data from health agencies and gathering details from families and friends of the victims. In the first 1,000 fatalities, some patterns have begun to emerge in the outbreak’s epidemiology and its painful human impact. About 65 percent of people whose ages are known were older than 70, and nearly 40 percent were over 80; the risks rise along with age. About 5 percent whose ages are known were in their 40s or younger, but many more in that age group have been sick enough to be hospitalized.


Nearly 60 percent of the dead were men.

Overwhelmed state and local authorities have been issuing widely varying reports on those who died, citing medical privacy laws to shield even basic details about age, gender, and underlying conditions, the three signal categories that epidemiologists say are key indicators of risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which offers a well-regarded and oft-cited public weekly tracker for the annual influenza season, provides no similar real-time surveillance for the novel coronavirus. And that analysis relies on spotty reporting provided by states, struggling to serve a surge of sick people. — GLOBE WIRES

In a tornado, group shelters will be open, despite virus

WASHINGTON — Social distancing remains among the top priorities of medical experts in fighting the spread of the coronavirus.

But there’s some things that can’t be done remotely via the Internet, and one’s a matter of life or death: storm sheltering.

Severe thunderstorm and tornado season is soon to begin across the Deep South and the Plains. A number of tornadoes struck the Deep South Tuesday night, prompting a rare tornado emergency in Colbert County, Ala. There, life-threatening storms are a springtime staple.


And with more dangerous storms likely to come, many are debating whether they should abandon social distancing and seek safety in a community storm cellar in the event of a tornado warning.

Some states have decided that fear of the coronavirus should not stop people from going to a community storm shelter, and experts and officials are working together to get the word out.

On Sunday, National Weather Service offices in Alabama teamed up with the Alabama Department of Public Health, issuing a joint statement to guide residents. — WASHINGTON POST

In first virus-related fraud case, Calif. actor is charged

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department brought its first coronavirus-related criminal fraud case in the nation Wednesday night, accusing a small-time actor in Southern California of peddling a fake cure to millions of social media followers and trying to woo investors with promises of millions of dollars in returns.

Keith Lawrence Middlebrook, 53, was arrested by the FBI Wednesday during a meeting in which he delivered pills to a potential ‘‘investor’’ — an undercover agent — that Middlebrook claimed would prevent COVID-19, the US attorney’s office in Los Angeles said. He is charged with one count of attempted wire fraud, which carries a punishment of up to 20 years in prison.

In videos he posted this month for his 2.4 million Instagram followers, Middlebrook showed off nondescript white pills and a liquid injection he claimed would offer immunity and a cure, respectively. The self-described ‘‘genius entrepreneur’’ frequently accused Democrats, the news media, and federal and world health officials of creating mass hysteria as a ploy to hurt President Trump. And at one point, he claimed his drugs had the support of a doctor with the Trump administration.


‘‘Not only did I make the cure, but this pill right here is the prevention,’’ he said in one video. ‘‘Meaning, if I walk into the Staples Center and everyone’s testing coronavirus positive, I can’t contract it. It’s impossible . . . I have what makes you immune to the coronavirus.’’

The World Health Organization and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have warned there is currently no cure, vaccine, or preventive drug for COVID-19. — WASHINGTON POST

Students no longer have to pick up free meals in person

WASHINGTON — The government is waiving a rule that required students to pick up free meals in person during school closures, after legislators and advocates said it was imperiling the health and safety of children with compromised immune systems.

New guidance from the US Department of Agriculture lets school districts distribute meals ‘‘to a parent or guardian to take home to their children,’’ according to a copy of the poli y obtained by The Washington Post. — WASHINGTON POST