National Guard activated for 3 states as US COVID-19 cases pass 35,000

March 23, 2020

President Trump announced he has activated the National Guard for three hard-hit states, and Ohio and Louisiana became the latest states to issue mandatory shelter-in-place orders, as the number of COVID-19 infections in the United States soared past 35,000.

At a briefing March 22, President Trump said the National Guard will be deployed to New York, California, and Washington state to help with their response to the pandemic coronavirus, adding that the action will be funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). He also said supplies, including gloves, beds, N95 respirators, and gowns will be delivered from the federal stockpile within the next 48 hours. According to an ABC News report, Trump said the National Guard in the three states will be under local control, with federal funding.

Trump also said FEMA will provide four 1,000-bed medical stations to New York, eight 2,000-bed medical stations to California, and three 1,000-bed medical stations for Washington, CNN reported.

Meanwhile, an increasing number of infections and exposures have been reported in lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic. And surges continue in western Europe, with disease activity picking up pace in some African countries, lifting the global total to 350,536 in 171 countries, 15,308 of them fatal, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

The United States, with 35,224 infections, now has the third most COVID-19 cases in the world, behind China and Italy.

Six states California, New York, Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey and Louisiana have issued shelter-in-place orders.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine issued a stay-at-home order that goes into effect tomorrow and lasts until Apr 6. It allows essential businesses to remain open, but exempts religious organizations, though the order warns that gathering in groups is dangerous. The state also set temporary rules for childcare centers, such as maintaining a 1:6 teacher-child ratio. So far, Ohio—with a population of about 11.7 million—has reported 351 cases, 3 of them fatal. DeWine also said that, following an emergency meeting, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy passed a rule to restrict dispensing of malaria medications because of to hoarding.

Over the past few days, President Trump has voiced hope that malaria drugs such as chloroquine are useful, though federal health officials have warned that so far, the benefits are anecdotal and that large randomized controlled trials are needed to assess if the drugs are safe and provide any treatment benefit.

In a related development, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announced a stay-at-home order that begins tomorrow at 5:00 pm and is in effect until Apr 13. The order affects 4.6 million people; the state has reported 837 cases, 20 of them fatal.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul today on Twitter announced that he has tested positive for COVID-19 after testing under an abundance of caution because of extensive travel and events. He said he is asymptomatic and in quarantine.

In a related development, Utah Senator Mitt Romney's office announced a statement that since he sat next to Rand for extended periods during recent days, Romney will self-quarantine and not vote on the Senate floor. He has no symptoms and is undergoing testing.

Last week, two US House members tested positive for the virus.

In addition, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in home quarantine after she was recently vaccinated by a doctor who tested positive for the virus, CNN reported.

US members of Congress are working on a COVID-19 relief and stimulus package worth $1.8 trillion, but Democrats have aired concerns about oversight of $500 billion in loans to companies selected by the US Department of Treasury, the Washington Post reported. House Democrats have signaled that they might release their own version of the bill, which could further delay a final agreement, the Post reported.

On the medical treatment front today, Gilead, the maker of the experimental antiviral drug that is in clinical trials and has been used on a compassionate use basis, announced today that it is transitioning emergency access from individual compassionate use requests to expanded access programs through clinical trials. The company said it can't accept any new compassionate use requests owing to overwhelming demand over the past several days and is focusing on processing earlier approved requests. Gilead emphasized that it will make exceptions for pregnant women and for children who have confirmed severe disease. And it urged doctors to enroll patients in clinical trials, if possible, rather than pursue emergency treatment requests.

CIDRAP has the story.

More COVID-19 coverage HERE.