National COVID-19 response: US raises health alert to highest level and 9 other notes

In the COVID-19 pandemic, 14,322 American cases have been reported, along with 210 deaths, as of 11:30 a.m. CDT, March 20.

Worldwide, 254,996 cases and 10,444 deaths have been reported, while 87,351 people have recovered from the illness.

Ten outbreak updates:

1. The U.S. State Department raised the global health advisory to its highest level, urging all Americans not to leave the country, ABC News reports. The level 4 advisory, typically reserved for war zones or hot spots, includes a warning for Americans abroad to return home if they're able, "unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period."

2. President Donald Trump plans to limit travel between the U.S. and Mexico, similar to restrictions with Canada announced March 18, according to NBC News. Mexico has reported 164 COVID-19 cases compared to 14,322 in the U.S., as of 11:30 a.m. CDT, March 20.

3. The American Association for Clinical Chemistry launched a COVID-19 testing directory for healthcare workers. The directory includes all U.S. clinical labs that are or will be testing for COVID-19 cases.  

4. China reported no new cases for the second day in a row, according to The Guardian.

5. Italy's death toll has surpassed that of China, reporting 3,405 deaths, compared to 3,253 in China as of 11 a.m. CDT, March 20. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's government is considering extending the current ban on nonessential activities until early May, though many Italians have not been abiding by the rules, anonymous officials told Bloomberg.

6. About 48.5 percent of COVID-19 patients experienced digestive symptoms, according to a study published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology. Of 204 patients in Hubei, China, 99 came to the hospital "with one or more digestive symptoms as their chief complaint," such as diarrhea, vomiting or abdominal pain. 

7. The Wuhan death rate is lower than initial estimates said, according to a new study published in Nature Medicine. The study, based on data as of Feb. 29, estimated Wuhan's death rate to be around 1.4 percent, compared to previous estimates ranging from 2.3 to 3.4 percent.   

8. New York has confirmed over 40 percent of all U.S. cases, reporting 5,711 cases as of 10 a.m. CDT, March 20.  

9. Summit, the world's fastest computer, identified chemicals that could stop the spread of COVID-19, according to findings published in ChemRxiv. Summit ran thousands of simulations and identified 77 drug compounds that might stop the virus from infecting host cells, a step forward in the race to develop an effective vaccine. 

10. Individual tax payments can now be paid as late as July, according to the IRS. The deadline has also been extended for C corporations.

More articles on public health:
Washington nursing home with 34 coronavirus deaths mistook outbreak for pneumonia, flu
US prepares for 18-month pandemic; 52% of COVID-19 patients are younger than 55 — 8 key updates
Providence donates $500K to bolster coronavirus response efforts

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