U.S. Coronavirus Update: Death Toll Hits 260, Shortage of Tests in Los Angeles and Americans Evacuated From Honduras

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. continues to rise, and has reached more than 19,400 as of Saturday morning, up around 5,000 from the previous day.

The death toll has risen to 260, with Washington state the worst affected with 83 deaths, well ahead of New York, which had 46 fatalities, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

California, with 24 deaths, Georgia and Louisiana, both with 14 deaths, were the next worst hit states, as restrictions on people's movements are being ramped up to curb the spread of the virus. Here are some of the latest developments.

U.S coronavirus public transport
A public bus in Rockville, Maryland is disinfected to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The number of infected people in the U.S. has increased as restrictions are in place across a number of states. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Study Says 650,000 People Could Get Coronavirus by May

A study published in The New York Times on Saturday issues a gloomy prediction that more than 650,000 people could be sickened with the coronavirus within two months.

The team from Columbia University drew on a database of known cases and linked it to traveling patterns, the paper reported. People who do not have symptoms or are only displaying mild symptoms are most likely to pass it on, with each infected person giving it to an average of 2.2 other people.

The study found that there could be up to 11 times more COVID-19 cases than reported ones, with Jeffrey Shaman, who led the research telling the paper, "We're looking at something that's catastrophic on a level that we have not seen for an infectious disease since 1918."

Los Angeles County Doctors Are Told to Restrict Tests

A shortage of coronavirus tests has forced health officials in Los Angeles County to declare that doctors should only test people if a diagnosis would have an impact on their treatment. The Los Angeles Times reported that doctors received the order this week that tests should only be used if "a diagnostic result will change clinical management or inform public health response."

This will mean it is almost certain that the number of positive cases will be undercounted, the paper reported.

There has been a shortage of tests across the country although the White House has promised that many more would be made available in the coming days and weeks.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, when asked if the U.S. could meet the demand for tests, he replied; "We are not there yet," CNN reported.

Philadelphia church
The Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, head church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia is closed to the public due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Cities across the country have been left deserted due to tough measures to stop the spread of the virus. Getty Images

Oregon and Connecticut Residents Told to Stay at Home

Officials in Oregon, which has had three deaths so far, have told residents to stay in their houses unless there is an emergency.

So far there is no lockdown or "shelter-in-place" order, but Gov. Kate Brown told people that "we all see that the storm is coming, but we still have time to change its course. Stay home and stay healthy."

Starting Monday, people in Connecticut are being urged to stay home after an order by Gov. Ned Lamont. He said that all non-essential businesses will need to have employees work from home, NBC reported.

Illinois Stay-at-Home Order in Effect

An order by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker for people to stay at home comes into effect at 5 p.m. CT on Saturday and will last until April 7.

Pritzker said "many, many people will still be able to go to work," and people would be able to go to grocery stories, pharmacies, hospitals and gas stations. They will also be able to walk their dogs, and go running and hiking.

Starting from Sunday, people in New York will face a ban on all but essential travel. California Gov. Gavin Newsom was the first to order a statewide shelter in place directive which applied to seven Northern California counties in and around San Francisco.

The graph below by Statista compares the number of COVID-19 cases with recoveries.

Coronavirus Recoveries and Cases March 19
Number of COVID-19 cases compared to recoveries.

Air Force Evacuates Americans from Honduras

The U.S. Air Force has evacuated 89 American citizens who had been stranded in Honduras.
Two flights on Friday brought the Americans to Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina, including the entire U.S. women's football team, The Washington Post reported.

The U.S. State Department has issued Level 4 travel warning against all international travel warning that those overseas may struggle to return home.

Trump's Mar-a-Lago Resort Closes

The president's retreat in Palm Beach, Florida has shut its doors after its members were told about the closure on Friday.

It follows an executive order by the state governor Ron DeSantis that all beaches, theaters, arcades, and gymnasiums in Palm Beach County and neighboring Broward County would close.

Second American Sports Body Calls for the Tokyo Olympics to be Postponed

USA Track & Field [USATF] has called for the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee to push for a postponement of the 2020 Olympics, due to start in July in Tokyo.

USATF now joins USA Swimming in the clamor to lobby against the International Olympic Committee's [IOC] insistence so that the games would still take place as planned.

USATF chief executive officer Max Siegel made the request in an email to the U.S. Olympic head Sarah Hirshland.

"We acknowledge that there are no perfect answers, and that this is a very complex and difficult decision," Siegel wrote, "but this position at least provides our athletes with the comfort of knowing that they will have adequate time to properly prepare themselves physically, mentally and emotionally to be able to participate in a safe and successful Olympic Games," said the letter which she published to Twitter.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before; during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • If you feel unwell (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and call local health authorities in advance.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing. Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
    Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.