Defense Production Act to be used; 'The pandemic is accelerating,' WHO head warns

The U.S. COVID-19 death toll jumped by more than 100 in one day, from 473 deaths as of 12 p.m. CDT, March 23 to 592 as of 11:30 a.m. CDT, March 24. Nationwide, 46,805 American cases have been reported. 

Worldwide, 396,249 COVID-19 cases and 17,454 deaths have been reported, while 103,332 people have recovered from the illness.

Seven outbreak updates:

1. "The pandemic is accelerating," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said, according to The Hill. He said the world's wealthiest nations must work together to combat the virus.

2. The Trump administration has decided to use the Defense Production Act, Peter Gaynor, Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator, told CNN March 24. The act will be put into action for the first time amid the COVID-19 pandemic to produce about 60,000 test kits to combat severe supply shortages, according to The Wall Street Journal. 

The announcement directly followed a March 24 tweet by President Donald Trump reading, "The Defense Production Act is in full force, but haven't had to use it because no one has said NO!" The president signed an executive order invoking the DPA March 18, which allows the federal government broad authority to direct private companies to meet national defense needs, but had not yet activated it.

3. "America will, again, and soon, be open for business. Very soon," President Trump said at a March 23 news briefing, according to The New York Times. The Trump administration will determine whether to keep the economy shut down after the initial 15-day period ends March 30, though President Trump said certain areas of the U.S. may reopen before others, depending on the spread of infections. Easing such restrictions could significantly increase the disease's death toll, health officials have warned.   

4. About 4,200 international physicians with U.S. residencies are affected by the State Department's hold on processing visas during the pandemic, Stat reports. The physicians were chosen to complete medical residencies in U.S. teaching hospitals starting in July, but the State Department has temporarily stopped issuing the visas most of them would need to enter the country. 

"If these new residents are unable to get their visas, it's going to really hamper the ability of the teaching hospitals to respond to the virus," William Pinsky, MD, president and CEO of the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, told Stat.

5. China plans to lift Wuhan's lockdown regulations April 8, CNBC reports. The lockdown began Jan. 23, and more than 2,500 people in Wuhan have died from COVID-19 to date.

6. The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo have been postponed, the International Olympic Committee president and the prime minister of Japan announced March 24. The event was delayed to "safeguard the health of the athletes," as well as everybody involved and the international community. An official date has not been set, but the games are not to be scheduled later than summer 2021. 

7. Senate Democrats blocked action on Republicans' $2 trillion COVID-19 spending bill March 23, the second day in a row, The Washington Post reports.   

More articles on public health:
Italian physicians urge other nations to treat more patients at home
How Americans are responding to coronavirus pandemic: 5 survey findings
Loss of smell may be COVID-19 symptom, physicians warn

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