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US could see 100,000 or more coronavirus deaths, Italy extends lockdown: Wednesday’s coronavirus news

Here’s what to know today.

President Trump, flanked by Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, and Vice President Pence, speaks about the novel coronavirus at the White House on March 31, 2020.
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The White House delivered Americans grim news during a press conference Tuesday evening: Even with mitigation strategies, the United States could see between 100,000 and 200,000 coronavirus deaths.

President Trump, who has previously downplayed the coronavirus, called the infection “vicious.”

The White House projections are based on what’s happening across the United States — and they could still change, as the country isn’t expected to reach its peak in cases for at least another two weeks. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States stands at about 190,000 as of April 1.

Around the world, positive coronavirus cases are closing in on 900,000. Italy has extended its nationwide lockdown until at least April 13, even as there are some signs the country is beginning to wear under the stress of the restrictive measures. It is not the only country under strain, and United Nations Secretary General António Guterres has called the coronavirus pandemic the world’s biggest challenge since World War II.

Here’s what you need to know today.

The US could see up to 200,000 coronavirus deaths

Just last week, President Donald Trump and some of his supporters were suggesting that the country could ease social distancing measures by Easter. That tone has shifted dramatically, as the White House has extended its mitigation guidelines until April 30, and has now warned that the next two weeks are going to be deeply painful for the country.

At a press conference Tuesday evening, the White House’s health experts presented horrifying data projections showing that the US could see at least 100,000 deaths, but as many as 200,000 deaths.

“As sobering a number as [100,000 deaths] is,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday, “we should be prepared for it. Is it going to be that much? I hope not ... We need to prepare ourselves — it is a possibility that that’s what we’ll see.”

The projections are based on what’s happening on the ground in the United States, and how the disease has played out around the world. These, again, are estimates — they could very well change, depending on how closely Americans abide by shutdown orders, stay home, and try to stop the spread.

The death toll in the United States — which stands at about 3,900 as of April 1 — is expected to peak in the next two weeks. “This is going to be a very painful, very very painful two weeks,” Trump said.

Italy extends lockdown

The Italian government has extended the country’s nationwide shutdown until at least April 13, putting the country under strict measures for almost a full month. Health minister Roberto Speranza said on Wednesday that the measures are beginning to show results, as the rate of infection is starting to slow in Italy.

But, he cautioned, “We must not confuse the first positive signals with an ‘all clear’ signal. Data shows that we are on the right path and that the drastic decisions are bearing fruit.”

Though there are positive signs that the rate of infection is slowing, Italy is still seeing about 800 deaths each day. The country has the highest reported coronavirus death toll in the world right now, at more than 12,000 as of April 1.

And the lockdown is taking its toll, as the economic uncertainty and strain is starting to settle in. This is especially true in southern Italy, which hasn’t been hit as hard by the coronavirus, but also was a bit more economically precarious before the start of the crisis.

The world’s biggest challenge since WWII, says UN head

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said Wednesday that the coronavirus pandemic is presenting the globe with its biggest challenge since World War II, and the formation of the United Nations itself. He warned that the virus could usher in a recession “that probably has no parallel in the recent past.”

Guterres’s remarks come as the United Nations put forward a plan to counter the socio-economic impacts of the coronavirus, including calling for governments to focus on the most vulnerable by providing health and social safety nets to those facing economic uncertainty and hardship. According to the United Nations International Labour Organization, the world could lose between 5 and 25 million jobs and between $860 billion to $3.4 trillion in labor income as a result of the pandemic.

And some good (?) news

With New York City at the center of the US’ coronavirus crisis, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has gotten a lot of visibility.

His handling of the crisis has gotten pretty high marks, both from New Yorkers who normally love to hate, though not exclusively, their governor, and from those out-of-state who see his straightforward, fact-based press conferences as an antidote to the president’s freewheeling ones.

City & State, a news outlet which covers New York politics, wrote a joke dating profile for the governor after he confirmed his break up with longtime partner Sandra Lee last fall. The site said they updated it last week because it had become one of the most-read articles on the site.

What has instigated this fandom? Is it his press appearances on the CNN show hosted by his brother Chris, full of their sometimes awkward Italian-sons’ sibling rivalry? Is it the governor’s incredible talent for Powerpoint? We can only guess, but it might have something to do with this new theory floating around, which is basically: Wait, does Andrew Cuomo have his nipples pierced?

A senior aide, asked whether the rumors of the governor’s body piercings were true, told the New York Post, “Of course not, sorry internet,” but internet conspiracy theories are rarely cowed by facts. And maybe this is a distraction New York needs right now, at least until the day when we can start blaming Cuomo for the subways again.