Coronavirus Live Updates: C.D.C. Recommends Wearing Masks


A day of mourning in China, amid doubts over its virus toll.

The Chinese government held a nationwide day of mourning on Saturday, the day of the annual Tomb Sweeping Festival, a traditional time for honoring ancestors. Flags flew at half-staff, and alarms and horns sounded for three minutes starting at 10 a.m. Xi Jinping and other leaders of the ruling Communist Party attended a ceremony in Beijing.

It will probably not be enough to soothe many families in the city of Wuhan, who have chafed against the state’s efforts to assert control over the grieving process.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the office leading the U.S. government’s coronavirus response nationwide, is running short of employees who are trained in some of its most important front-line jobs, according to interviews with current and former officials.

At the same time, the agency has been forced to halt a major hiring initiative and has closed training facilities to avoid spreading the infection.

The number of available personnel qualified to lead field operations has fallen to 19 from 44 in less than six weeks, as many of those leaders have been assigned to run operations in states with virus-related disaster declarations. Additional staff members are also being pulled from responding to other disasters.

Training centers in Maryland and Alabama have been shuttered until mid-May, and an effort to recruit new employees is on hold, according to a senior administration official with direct knowledge of FEMA’s operations.

With wildfire season looming and hurricane season starting in less than two months, the shortfalls could complicate federal response to disasters nationwide.

Having the right antibodies to the virus in one’s blood — a potential marker of immunity — may soon determine who gets to work and who does not, who is locked down and who is free.

That debate is in some ways ahead of the science. Researchers are uncertain, if hopeful, that antibodies in fact indicate immunity. But that has not stopped politicians from grasping at the idea as they come under increasing pressure to open economies and avoid inducing a widespread economic depression.

An experimental vaccine is ready to test in people as soon as the Food and Drug Administration grants permission, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center said.

Mice given the vaccine produced high levels of antibodies against the new coronavirus. But only clinical trials can determine whether it will be safe and effective in humans, a process that is likely to take at least 18 months.

Another vaccine, made by Moderna, is already in a clinical trial, which started March 15. Dozens more candidates are being developed by other companies.

The University of Pittsburgh’s vaccine will be given in an unusual way: through a small patch dotted with 400 “microneedles” made of sugar mixed with a coronavirus protein. The microneedles penetrate the skin and the sugar melts, releasing the full protein dose in 10 minutes or less, and alerting the immune system to start making antibodies to fight the virus.

“It’s not painful,” Dr. Louis D. Falo Jr., a member of the research team, said in an interview. “The needles don’t reach any nerves, nor do they reach blood vessels. They’re a little more than half a millimeter long, and the width of a human hair.”

This approach takes advantage of the skin’s ability to set off a powerful immune response. Skin is the body’s first line of defense against a constant bombardment of bacteria and viruses from the environment, and it is teeming with cells that act like scouts for the immune system, looking for things that shouldn’t be there.

A vaccination with microneedles uses a smaller dose than the usual shot in the arm requires, allowing more people to be immunized, Dr. Falo said. The vaccine, unlike most, does not have to be frozen or refrigerated, making shipping and storage easier and cheaper.

“This is not a shark attack,” Mr. Larson said. “It is trillions of germs that we can control if we follow the preventive guidelines.”

But memories of the 1918 epidemic had already prompted an aggressive response from Philadelphia’s public health authorities. One result: Unlike some American cities, they expect to have enough hospital beds to withstand even a worst-case scenario.

“The state has handled it very differently, and the city handled it radically differently,” said Dr. Tony S. Reed, chief medical officer at Temple University Hospital. “Frankly, for us it’s going to make all the difference in the world.”

Germany has reported more than 91,000 coronavirus infections and over 1,200 deaths. But thanks to widespread testing and other measures, its percentage of fatal cases — 1.3 percent — has been remarkably low.

By contrast, the rate is about 10 percent in Spain, France and Britain, 4 percent in China and 2.5 percent in the United States. Even South Korea, a model of flattening the curve, has a rate of 1.7 percent.

So why is Germany’s number so low? One reason, experts say, is that it has been administering around 350,000 coronavirus tests a week, far more than any other European country. That means it finds more infected people with few or no symptoms, which “lowers the death rate on paper,” said Hans-Georg Kräusslich, the head of virology at University Hospital in Heidelberg.

At least 17 Egyptian doctors and nurses have tested positive for the coronavirus, the National Cancer Institute in Cairo said on Saturday, raising fears the pandemic could have a devastating effect on health facilities in the Arab world’s most populous country.

The outbreak was the first reported among medical workers in Egypt, which recorded an increase in the rate of infections over the weekend: The health ministry recorded 120 cases on Friday, raising the total to 985, with 66 deaths.

Cairo University, which runs the cancer hospital, said in a statement that all medical workers at the facility were being tested, and that the hospital would be closed and sanitized.

The Egyptian medical syndicate, an association representing hundreds of thousands of medical workers, said in a statement that it was “shocked” by the number of cases and urged the authorities to supply protection equipment and apply strict testing protocols.

It said in a post on Facebook that the infected medical workers had been placed in quarantine.

Reports from around the globe.

•SPAIN: The European country with the second-highest number of cases after Italy said on Saturday that 809 coronavirus patients had died overnight, the lowest toll in a week, bringing total deaths to 11,744. It also reported 7,026 new cases, for a total of 124,736.

•ECUADOR: The health minister said there was a “sharp rise” in coronavirus deaths on Friday in Guayaquil, the center of the country’s outbreak, with the toll rising to 1,500 from 700. The government said on Thursday that it was building a “special camp” for coronavirus patients in Guayaquil, where many bodies have been left in homes for days. Residents have complained that they have no way to dispose of relatives’ remains because of strict quarantine and curfew measures. Police officers and soldiers have been collecting as many as 150 bodies a day from homes, and have been tasked with burying the dead.

•REPUBLIC OF GEORGIA: A 79-year-old woman who tested positive for the coronavirus died in the South Caucasus region on Saturday, becoming the country’s first reported death related to the pandemic. Medical officials said she had other underlying conditions. Georgia, a nation of 3.7 million people, had 157 confirmed cases as of Saturday.

•FALKLAND ISLANDS: The British territory has recorded its first case, according to the chief medical officer, Dr. Rebecca Edwards. The patient was admitted to hospital on March 31 from the islands’ Mount Pleasant Complex, which is a Royal Air Force base. No further details were released.

Holdout states resist calls for stay-at-home orders.

More than 130 sailors have been infected so far, a number that is expected to rise by hundreds as the vessel remains docked at Guam.

Reporting was contributed by Denise Grady, Michael Ives, Raphael Minder, Jason Horowitz, Elian Peltier, Constant Méheut, Christopher F. Schuetze, Katrin Bennhold, Yonette Joseph, Elaina Plott, Dan Barry, Caitlin Dickerson, Alisha Haridasani Gupta, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Eric Schmitt, Matthew Haag, Peter Eavis, Niraj Chokshi, David Gelles, Christopher Flavelle, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Alan Feuer, Helene Cooper, Katie Benner, Alan Rappeport, Michael D. Shear, Sheila Kaplan, Sarah Mervosh, Jack Healy, Amy Qin, Cao Li, Yiwei Wang, Albee Zhang and Alexandra Stevenson.



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