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195,000 Americans tested for coronavirus; 75 million told to stay home

Photo by: John Nacion/STAR MAX/IPx 2020 3/4/20 People wear protective masks to fend off the Corona Virus, while street vendors pedal masks, hand sanitizer and other disinfecting products in Queens, New York.
Photo by: John Nacion/STAR MAX/IPx 2020 3/4/20 People wear protective masks to fend off the Corona Virus, while street vendors pedal masks, hand sanitizer and other disinfecting products in Queens, New York. (Copyright John Nacion/STAR MAX/IPx 2020)

(CNN) -- New orders poured in this week from local and state leaders as US health officials issued stark warnings about the spread of the coronavirus.

About 75 million Americans were told to stay home after Connecticut, Illinois, New York and California directed all non-essential workers to sequester -- with Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker saying the step was necessary to "avoid the loss of potentially tens of thousands of lives."

And while California Gov. Gavin Newsom said police will not be regulating the statewide order, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said residents of his state could be fined for choosing to ignore the directions.

The sweeping measures follow similar directives throughout the week issued by both city and state leaders urging residents to stay put. Those came on top of a slew of orders across the country demanding bars and restaurants convert to only take-out and delivery services in certain areas.

All in the efforts of keeping people apart.

"Every state will head this way," CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem said Friday. "People need to prepare themselves that this gets harder before this gets easier."

President Donald Trump said Friday he did not anticipate issuing any nationwide stay-at-home orders. Days earlier, the federal government issued "15-day pause" guidelines, asking Americans -- among other suggestions -- to avoid public gatherings with more than 10 people.

The "pause" may last longer than 15 days, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in their own guidelines.

In one federal plan obtained by CNN, the government said it was preparing for a pandemic that could last up to 18 months or longer and include "multiple waves of illnesses."

195,000 Americans tested

Vice President Mike Pence announced on Saturday that more than 195,000 Americans have been tested for the virus.

He noted that the number does not include county hospitals or health care labs around the country. Currently, only 19,343 tests have come back positive, Pence said.

Trump also told reporters on Saturday that Congress is close to reaching a deal on a proposal for the next stimulus bill to deal with the pandemic.

On Saturday, congressional and administration negotiators entered a crucial day in the effort to deploy more than $1 trillion in emergency stimulus to a staggering economy, with a growing consensus on a final agreement, but a handful of significant hang-ups still needed to be resolved.

Bipartisan groups of senators worked late into Friday night with top officials from Trump's administration to lock in a final agreement -- a deal that people directly involved in the negotiations tell CNN could top a cost of $1.5 trillion -- before falling short of a midnight deadline imposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Larry Kudlow, a top economic adviser to Trump, went even further on the overall scope of the package Saturday, telling reporters it could top $2 trillion.

Makeshift masks and hospitals

But as numbers climb, healthcare workers and state leaders have sounded the alarm on medical supplies that have begun running short.

In New York City, now the epicenter of the outbreak in the US, Mayor Bill de Blasio called on Trump for help and said supplies could only last for the next few weeks.

"I said very clearly that for the month of March, we have the supplies that we need, the city has very strong reserves of the kind of supplies that I talked about," he said. "It is going into April that I'm worried about. I don't have the perfect day for you, we're assessing all the time but it is a day, two weeks from now or three weeks from now where we must, by then, have had a very substantial resupply.

In new guidance this week, the CDC said facilities facing a "crisis" should consider options to combat shortages that "are not commensurate with US standards of care."

That includes re-using masks as well using "homemade ones" from materials like bandanas and scarves.

Hospitals from across the country have already reported they've had to get creative with how to make more masks and make them last longer.

Some have gotten creative with hospital facilities too --- with one Washington state community getting ready to open a 200-bed hospital on a soccer field. And de Blasio said the city will use "every building we can... to become essentially annexes to hospitals."

"Supplies are a major issue -- (personal protective equipment), gloves, gowns, mask suppliers," Cuomo said Friday. "I am now asking all product providers, all companies who are in this business, we will pay a premium for these products."

That's not all. Some facilities, including in New York, have drastically upped their orders for ventilators.

Michael Dowling, president and CEO of the Northwell Health, was picked by New York's governor to lead a hospital surge team. He said he wants to purchase as many as 500 ventilators, which can cost $20,000 to $40,000 a machine.

US unprepared

The coronavirus outbreak in Italy -- whose health care system has more hospital beds per 1,000 people than the United States -- could signal a lack of preparedness in the US, according to commentary published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"Though Italy's health system is highly regarded and has 3.2 hospital beds per 1,000 people (as compared with 2.8 in the United States), it has been impossible to meet the needs of so many critically ill patients simultaneously," Dr. Lisa Rosenbaum, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, wrote in the piece.

One expert told CNN earlier this week the US was "two months too late" in preparing.

"I really think this is a fundamental responsibility of government to have acted on this a long time ago," said Dr. Eric Toner, who studies hospital preparedness at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

Dr. David Hill, a pulmonary critical care physician and a spokesperson for the American Lung Association said staffing shortages will likely come even before equipment starts to run out.

"Part of it is just exhausting our personnel. Health care is complicated and people make mistakes when they're overworked," Hill said.

If health care workers get sick, "everything can fall apart very quickly," says Dr. Peter Hotez, professor and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

Hotez said he is, "especially worried now about our health care providers because we're starting to see those individuals become sick as well and be taken out of the workforce, or in some cases become seriously ill. So here's where everything can fall apart very quickly."

To combat a possible shortage in Georgia, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said he was taking action to expedite licensing for nursing professionals who come in from other states to help fight the spread of the virus.

"Fighting, defeating, and overcoming coronavirus in Georgia and across the country will require enlisting the help of the best and brightest medical professionals available" Raffensperger said in a news release.

And in New York and Connecticut, state leaders reached out to retired doctors and nurses to request help during the pandemic.

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