Coronavirus infections reached a grave new milestone of over 200,000 cases around the world on Wednesday, underscoring the stakes as officials in the U.S. and Europe impose strict restrictions on their borders and citizens in a desperate bid to slow the pandemic’s rapid march.
President Donald Trump announced the U.S. was closing its border to Canada, with the exception of trade, early Wednesday.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is loosening its rules for clinical trials, as parts of the country are increasingly participating in social distancing and cities are locking down.
“The FDA recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic may impact the conduct of clinical trials of medical products, including drugs, devices and biological products,” the FDA said in a statement Wednesday.
With some site closures and travel restrictions, along with supply chain disruptions for drugs, it may become difficult to conduct clinical trials, and the FDA is considering allowing phones and video chat to check in on trial participants.
Although investors on Tuesday cheered Trump’s plans for a massive fiscal stimulus, markets are poised to give back those gains at the opening bell as the crisis reaches a crescendo. More than 8,000 people around the globe have perished from the virus — the vast majority in China and Italy, which has become Europe’s hottest zone as the disease gains a foothold there.
Soaring COVID-19 infection rates around the world have forced the European Union to join other nations in a restrictive quarantine effort. The 28-nation trading bloc has locked down its outside border for the time being, to slow the disease’s march across the continent.
In the U.S., however, those affected by COVID-19 infections have topped 5,000 on over 100 deaths — and finally infected all 50 states as West Virginia reported its first cases late Tuesday. On Wednesday, Trump announced the its Canadian border would be shut to non-essential traffic, but the move would not impact trade flows.
The rising illnesses and fears of community spreading have led New York City to float the possibility of a “shelter-in-place” order that officials hope will curb the virus’ diffusion.
All around the world’s largest economy, officials are moving to keep more people off the streets in a way that’s diminishing crowds but choking growth.
Markets recovered after a free-fall session drove the Dow Jones Industrial Average to a record point drop, boosted by Trump and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announcing a wide range of proposals to get money into the hands of taxpayers immediately.
The Senate is slated to take action this week on a stimulus bill that passed the House last week. Officials are hoping to blunt the virus’ impact on the global economy, which many analysts now believe will sink into a recession this year.
Mnuchin said those measures may include $1,000 checks for everyone affected, and other moves to shore up small businesses, something the top U.S. finance official referred to as “business interruption payments.”
Those proposals are meant to help ease the massive disruptions to public life, as officials across the U.S. move to discourage large gatherings, mainly by ordering social distancing measures that will close gyms, restaurants, bars and nightclubs — keeping citizens indoors as much as possible.
Open Table, an online reservation site, has reported more than 50% drops in major metropolitan areas around the country. The same is true for food delivery services like Grubhub and Uber Eats, which are struggling even as many workers hunker down at home.
‘A lot of kinks in the system’
All industries appear to be impacted by the outbreak, including retail. Many companies have announced store closures or limited capacity of shoppers, while groceries and pharmacies are taking steps to stay open while also looking out for the public health — including having senior-only shopping hours.
As Europe continues to test more of its population, the U.S. is slowly ramping up its own capabilities — which is likely to lead to a jump in new cases.
The White House’s coronavirus Task Force announced that drive-thru testing is being set up this week, and will likely be in full swing by next.
Admiral Brett Giroir, the “czar” in charge of testing who is also the assistant secretary for Health, warned the drive-thru would not be perfect. He expected only 47 sites across 12 states, and has already run a trial of the system on Monday.
Accordingly, he anticipated “a lot of kinks in the system.”
However, testing capabilities are definitively ramping up, which raised hopes that the U.S. may be able to stem the tide of illnesses, much like South Korea did with its aggressive testing efforts. Currently, there are nearly 32,000 tests from the Centers for Disease Control and 27,000 from clinical labs — of which 8,200 alone were from Monday.
In New York City, where new cases continue to mount, a newly-announced partnership with BioReference Laboratories may increase capacity to 5,000 tests per day.
The health system in the U.S. is already feeling the pressure, with protective gear in short supply. Hospitals are crafting their own protective equipment as the situation becomes more dire. Meanwhile, hospital beds remain a concern, as do ventilators and masks. The White House asked the construction industry to donate N95 masks to hospitals, and the Pentagon announced it is donating ventilators to the HHS.
Meanwhile, as patients and the worried well are encouraged to use telehealth instead of visiting health facilities, telehealth systems are becoming overwhhelmed, according to various reports.
Anjalee Khemlani is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @AnjKhem
Javier David is an editor for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter: @TeflonGeek