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Across the U.S., economic losses mount, but virus peak still lies ahead

The coronavirus pandemic has claimed some 7,000 lives across the United States, with more than 40 percent of those in New York. The state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, said he will seize vital unused equipment from private hospitals if necessary in order to treat the surge in COVID-19 patients. Meanwhile, new numbers drive home the outbreak’s devastating impact on the U.S. economy. Amna Nawaz reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The United States heads into this weekend with coronavirus deaths still accelerating.

    The pandemic has claimed some 7,000 lives nationwide, and there is new guidance tonight on using face masks. But President Trump says he has no plans to wear one.

    More than 40 percent of the deaths are in New York. And the governor says the state will start seizing vital medical equipment.

    Meanwhile, new numbers confirm that the American job market is collapsing.

    Amna Nawaz begins our coverage.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    For many Americans, Friday is payday, but not so today, as stores remain closed, restaurants, dark, and parking lots empty, all markers of an economy reeling through a global pandemic.

    The Labor Department reported today that employers shed more than 700,000 jobs last month.

    Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow warned of what's yet to come.

  • Larry Kudlow:

    It's going to get worse in the weeks ahead. There's no question about it. The effects of the pandemic and the mitigation that's required to end it are taking a huge toll.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    COVID-19 continues to take a toll on the U.S. health system. The week saw an expansion of stay-at-home orders in the U.S., putting a majority of Americans across 38 states under some sort of directive.

    Massachusetts today saw its biggest one-day high in new cases and death. Total cases now top 10,400, and more than 190 have died.

  • Governor Charlie Baker:

  • Governor Charlie Baker:

    Our models suggest cases are likely to increase rapidly in the coming weeks, and the strain on our health care system will be unprecedented.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    At the country's epicenter in New York, cases reached over 102,000 today, and deaths reached over 2,900, after the biggest single-day increase so far.

    Hospitals past capacity are transferring patients to makeshift clinics at the Convention Center and even parts of Central Park.

    New York Governor Andrew Cuomo railed against the procurement process, which pits state against state, and called for more coordination at the federal level.

  • Governor Andrew Cuomo:

    It is unbelievable to me that in New York state, in the United States of America, we can't make these materials.

    New York is in crisis. Help New York. And then pick up, decant, and then go to the next place, as this rolls across the country.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Cuomo today signed an aggressive new order authorizing seizure of unused ventilators and PPE from private hospitals and companies.

  • Governor Andrew Cuomo:

    If they want to sue me for borrowing their excess ventilators to save lives, let them sue me.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    But even resources intended to alleviate the system strain are getting stuck in bureaucratic knots. The U.S. Navy ship Comfort and its 1,000 hospital beds was meant to help New York treat non-COVID-19 patients.

    So, far they have bunked barely 20. The same is true aboard the Mercy ship and Los Angeles, where fewer than 10 patients have been treated. The Defense Department today announced a screening process change to allow more patients to come their way.

    From the Supreme Court today, a change in plans, saying it's postponing oral arguments scheduled for the end of April, and from the White House, a change in guidance on masks. White House health officials joined cities like Los Angeles and New York recommending people wear cloth face masks, even if they show no COVID-19 symptoms.

    Those measures have long been used by countries in Asia and Europe as they worked to stop the virus' spread.

    In Spain today, the death toll surpassed Italy's, topping 11,000. As hospitals overflow, these ice rinks remain as makeshift morgues. And safeguards to contain the virus also remain in place, as at this nursing home in Santa Coloma, where this is the only way for Maria Espinar to check on her mother.

  • Maria Jose Alvarez Espinar (through translator):

    Now they said that they are going to test all the residents that are well and, if they are negative, they will let you take them home.

    But, of course, the problem is that if I don't know if I'm infected. How will I take her home?

  • Amna Nawaz:

    More uncertainty in Saudi Arabia, where, for the first time in modern history, officials say the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, the hajj, could be postponed. Some two million Muslims have been asked to hold off on travel plans by the Saudi government.

  • Muhammad Saleh Bin Taher Benten (through translator):

    The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is prepared to secure the safety of all Muslims and nationals. That's why we have requested from all Muslims around the world to hold onto signing any agreements until we have a clear vision.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    The latest in major global events to come to a standstill, while the virus continues its march around the world.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Amna Nawaz.

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