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20,000 US Death Toll Overtakes Italy’s As Midwest Braces

The U.S. death toll from the corona virus eclipsed Italy’s for the highest in the world Saturday, surpassing 20,000, as Chicago and other cities across the Midwest braced for a potential surge in victims and moved to snuff out smoldering hot spots of contagion before they erupt.

With the New York area still deep in crisis, fear mounted over the spread of the scourge into the nation’s heartland.

Twenty-four residents of an Indiana nursing home hit by COVID-19 have died, while a nursing home in Iowa saw 14 deaths. Chicago’s Cook County has set up a temporary morgue that can take more than 2,000 bodies. And Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been going around telling groups of people to “break it up.”

In Europe, countries used roadblocks, drones, helicopters, mounted patrols and the threat of fines to keep people from traveling over Easter weekend. With infections and deaths slowing in Italy, Spain and other places on the Continent, governments took tentative steps toward loosening the weeks-long shutdowns.

Glorious weather across Europe posed an extra test of people’s discipline.

“Don’t do silly things,” said Domenico Arcuri, Italy’s special commissioner for the virus emergency. “Don’t go out, continue to behave responsibly as you have done until today, use your head and your sense of responsibility.”

The outbreak’s center of gravity has long since shifted from China to Europe and the United State s, which now has by far the largest number of confirmed cases — over a half-million — and a death toll higher than Italy’s count of nearly 19,500, according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

The death rate — the number of dead relative to the population — is still far higher in Italy than in the United States, which has more than five times as many people. And worldwide, the true numbers of dead and infected are believed to be much higher because of testing shortages, different counting practices and concealment by some governments.

About half the deaths in the U.S. are in the New York metropolitan area, where hospitalizations are nevertheless slowing and other indicators suggest lock downs and social distancing are “flattening the curve” of infections and staving off the doomsday scenarios of just a week or two ago.New York state on Saturday reported 783 more deaths, for a total of over 8,600. Gov. Andrew Como said the daily number of deaths is stabilizing, “but stabilizing at a horrific rate.”

Nearly 300 inmates at the Cook County Jail have tested positive for the virus, and two have died. In Wisconsin, health officials expect to see an increase in cases after thousands of people went to the polls Tuesday for the state’s presidential primary.

Michigan’s governor extended a stay-at-home order with new provisions: People with multiple homes may no longer travel between them.

In Kansas, the state Supreme Court heard arguments in a dispute Saturday between Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and Republican lawmakers who overturned her executive order banning religious services and funerals with more than 10 people. New Mexico’s governor expand a ban on mass gatherings to include churches and other houses of worship.

An AP tally from media reports and state health departments indicates at least 2,500 deaths have been linked to corona virus in nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the United States, though the federal government has not been releasing a count of its own.

In Indonesia, inmates set fire to a prison on Sulawesi island during a riot, apparently angry over restrictions imposed to contain the corona virus. There were no reports of riot-related deaths.

Britain on Saturday reported 917 more deaths from the corona virus, down from the peak of 980 recorded a day earlier. The country’s overall death toll neared 10,000. At the same time, data suggest that the number of hospital admissions in Britain is leveling off.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the first major world leader confirmed to have COVID-19, continued to recover at a London hospital, where he was able to take short walks, according to his office.

Worldwide, confirmed infections rose to about 1.8 million, with over 108,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins. More than 400,000 people have recovered.

For most people, the corona virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older people and those with health problems, it can cause severe symptoms like pneumonia.

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