U.S. Now Leads the World in Coronavirus Cases
The U.S. passed a grim milestone Thursday when it became the country with the most confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, overtaking both China and Italy.
The U.S. now has at least 85,381 cases to China's 81,340 and Italy's 80, 539, according to data provided by The New York Times and updated at 4:34 a.m. Friday Eastern Standard Time. And its death toll has also risen past 1,000.
"We are the new global epicenter of the disease," Johns Hopkins Medicine infectious disease specialist Dr. Sara Keller told The New York Times.
The new coronavirus has so far infected more than 523,700 people in at least 171 countries worldwide, according to The New York Times' figures. It has killed nearly 24,000. The U.S. death toll still lags behind that in Italy, Spain and China, which have reported around 8,000, 4,000 and 3,000 deaths respectively.
President Donald Trump responded as the news of the world-leading U.S. caseload broke during a press briefing Thursday by attributing the surge to robust testing for the virus that causes COVID-19.
"It's a tribute to the amount of testing that we're doing," Trump told reporters, as The Guardian reported. "We're doing tremendous testing, and I'm sure you're not able to tell what China is testing or not testing. I think that's a little hard."
But public health experts say the surge in U.S. cases could have been avoided if the administration had responded more effectively when the disease first emerged. Even before the outbreak, the Trump administration had cut funding for public health and disease response agencies and dismantled the National Security Council team in charge of pandemic response. Once the outbreak began, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was criticized for rolling out ineffective tests and setting up extremely narrow criteria for who could be tested.
"This could have been stopped by implementing testing and surveillance much earlier — for example, when the first imported cases were identified," Columbia University virologist Angela Rasmussen told The New York Times. "If these are the cases we've confirmed, how many cases are we still missing?"
Those failures have taken a toll on the health and daily lives of people across the U.S. In New York City, the U.S. epicenter of the outbreak, more people died on Wednesday of the new disease than Americans killed in the war in Afghanistan in the last five years, The Independent reported.
Hospitals in the city are overwhelmed and are around 90,000 beds short of what it is predicted they will need, according to Sky News.
"It's hell, biblical. I kid you not," Dr. Steve Kasspidis, who works at Mount Sinai Hospital in Queens, told Sky. "People come in, they get intubated, they die, the cycle repeats. The system is overwhelmed all over the place."
Outside of the hospitals, daily life has ground to a halt in many places. Twenty-one states have told residents to stay at home, according to BBC News. The subsequent economic disruption has meant that a record 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, The Guardian reported Thursday. That's a jump of almost three million compared to the 281,000 applications filed the week before, the largest week-long jump in history.
Trump has said he wanted to get the country back to work by Easter Sunday, April 12, but this approach has been criticized as ignoring scientific advice for how to reduce infections, CNN's Stephen Collinson pointed out.
"If the White House were to relax the social distancing measures 'soon,' well ahead of the necessary timeline to have a significant impact on our view, it would raise the risk of increasing the peak or delaying the time to peak," a report issued Tuesday by investment bank Morgan Stanley warned.
Still, the U.S.'s new role as disease epicenter hasn't stopped Trump from touting a return to work in the near future.
"They [the American people] have to go back to work, our country has to go back, our country is based on that and I think it's going to happen pretty quickly," he said Thursday, according to BBC News. "We may take sections of our country, we may take large sections of our country that aren't so seriously affected and we may do it that way."
He said any return would still accommodate social distancing measures and promised more details next week.
Meanwhile, Keller of Johns Hopkins told The New York Times what the country had to do now that it had failed to prevent the spread of the disease.
"Now, all we can do is to slow the transmission as much as possible by hunkering down in our houses while, as a country, we ramp up production of personal protective equipment, materials needed for testing, and ventilators," she said.
- U.S. Hospitals Are Unprepared for Coronavirus, Nurses Warn While ... ›
- US Prisons Risk 'Nightmare' Coronavirus Outbreak, Advocates Warn ›
- Why I feel Safer From Coronavirus in a Biosafety Lab ›
- World Tops 10 Million Coronavirus Cases - EcoWatch ›
- U.S. Passes 4 Million Coronavirus Cases - EcoWatch ›
- U.S. Coronavirus Case Count Passes 9 Million - EcoWatch ›
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
- San Antonio, Texas Unveils Largest Highway Crossing for Wildlife in ... ›
- Wildlife Crossings a Huge Success - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
- Climate Change Will Be Sudden and Cataclysmic Unless We Act Now ›
- There's a Heatwave at the Arctic 'Doomsday Vault' - EcoWatch ›
- Marine Heatwaves Destroy Ocean Ecosystems Like Wildfires ... ›
By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
- Biden Reaffirms Commitment to Rejoining Paris Agreement ... ›
- Biden Likely Plans to Cancel Keystone XL Pipeline on Day One ... ›
- Joe Biden Appoints Climate Crisis Team - EcoWatch ›