The coronavirus pandemic has hit a grim milestone — 1 million confirmed cases.
The count by Johns Hopkins University says almost one-fourth, 236,000, are in the United States.
The worldwide death toll stands at more than 53,000. Italy reported the most fatalities with more than 13,000 and climbing daily.
A question on nearly everyone’s lips in the U.S. is, “Do I need to wear a mask?” Some experts have said anyone who is not sick or caring for someone who is doesn’t need one. They say a mask won’t stop the virus.
Other experts say even minimal protection from a face covering is better than nothing at all.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is recommending New Yorkers wear a scarf, bandana, or some homemade covering over their mouths and noses – but not a surgical mask. He says those should be reserved for medical professionals.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is also asking people to cover their mouths in public.
U.S. President Donald Trump said the White House task force is still putting together guidelines on whether to wear a face covering.
“If people wanted to wear them, they can. It’s not a bad idea, at least for a period of time,” Trump said.
The White House said Trump was tested again for the coronavirus, using a test that gives results in 15 minutes. The president tested negative and was pronounced “healthy.”
The World Bank approved nearly $2 billion in funds for 25 of the world’s poorest countries to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and Ethiopia will get most of the first payments. The money is specifically earmarked for critical medical supplies, including masks and ventilators.
Bank President David Malpass says the institution could provide as much as $160 billion in such help over the next year.
India’s lockdown of more than 1 billion people has left hundreds of millions homeless and without food, prompting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to beg for their forgiveness.
In Brussels, NATO foreign ministers have tasked the alliance’s top military officer, U.S. Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, “to coordinate the necessary military support to combat the crisis, to speed up and step up assistance.”
Wolters will procure cargo planes and other aircraft to deliver medical supplies as well as surplus stocks across the 30-member bloc.
Meanwhile, Portugal announced a ban on all commercial flights arriving at its airports, and its citizens won’t be allowed to visit other towns except for work. The new restrictions take effect April 9 and are set to last five days.
“The virus doesn’t travel by itself,” Prime Minister Antonio Costa said Thursday. “This Easter period is a particularly critical time and that’s why it is essential to restrict movement in the national territory.”
The government is also pardoning inmates sentenced to two years or less to prevent a spread of the virus in jails.
Portugal has a little more than 9,000 confirmed cases.
Also Thursday, three anonymous Iraqi doctors involved in testing say the country has thousands of coronavirus cases – far more than the government’s official count of 772.
Iraq’s health ministry simply said the sources reporting what the doctors allege are “incorrect.”
In Seattle, Washington, federal officials have proposed a $611,000 fine for the nursing home where 40 people died of coronavirus.
The Life Care Center was ground zero early in the U.S. outbreak.
Federal regulators say the facility had a nuber of serious problems including failing to quickly identify and properly treat residents during a spate of respiratory illnesses that turned out to have been caused by the coronavirus.
The nursing home has yet to respond to the proposed fine.
Also Thursday, the U.S. Postal Service said 22 countries have informed them that they can no longer process or deliver mail arriving from other nations because of disruptions in service caused by the coronavirus.
They include India, Kuwait, Honduras, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa, and 17 other countries.
And Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is ordering police to confront anyone who is violating the lockdown on Luzon and “shoot them dead.”
Duterte appeared on television Thursday after residents in a poor section of Manila protested in the streets against what they say is the government’s negligence to deliver food and supplies.
“I will not hesitate. My orders are to the police and military, as well as village officials, if there is any trouble, or occasions where there’s violence and your lives are in danger, shoot them dead. Do not intimidate the government. Do not challenge the government. You will lose.”
Government officials hastily followed up on Duterte’s remarks to say he was simply using his usual tough rhetoric to illustrate how serious the coronavirus is.
Police Chief Archie Gamboa said the president was “just overemphasizing on implementing the law in this time of crisis,” and police officers realize that they are not going to kill anyone for protesting.