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New York gets Chinese ventilators; Trump wants more thanks

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York governor said Saturday the Chinese government was facilitating a shipment of 1,000 donated ventilators to his state, highlighting the extreme measures leaders are taking in what has become a cutthroat scramble to independently secure enough lifesaving devices during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a sign of the disorganized response to the global crisis, Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised the Chinese government for its help in securing the shipment of the breathing machines that was scheduled to arrive at Kennedy Airport on Saturday, while acknowledging that the U.S. government’s stockpile of medical supplies would fall drastically short.

“We’re all in the same battle here,” Cuomo said, noting that the state of Oregon also volunteered to send 140 ventilators to New York. “And the battle is stopping the spread of the virus.”

The rush to secure supplies has prompted intense squabbling between the states and federal government at a moment the nation is facing one of its gravest emergencies. Leaders like Cuomo have been forced to go outside normal channels and work with authoritarian governments and private companies.

Trump said states are making inflated requests for medical supplies when the need isn’t there and suggested he had a hand in the ventilator shipment arriving from China to New York. Trump also said he’d like to hear a more resounding “thank you” from Cuomo for providing medical supplies and helping quickly to add hospital capacity. Cuomo acknowledged he asked the White House and others for help negotiating the ventilators.

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Trump says ‘toughest’ weeks ahead as coronavirus spreads

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump warned Saturday that the country could be headed into its “toughest” weeks yet as the coronavirus death toll mounts, but at the same time he expressed growing impatience with social distancing guidelines and said he’s eager to get the country reopened and its stalled economy back on track.

“There will be a lot of death, unfortunately,” Trump said in a somber start to his daily briefing on the pandemic. “There will be death.”

Joining Trump were Vice President Mike Pence, virus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s foremost infection disease expert. Each stood far apart from one another on the small stage.

Trump added a twist on his familiar push for a drug that hasn’t been clearly shown to work to stop the virus — he said he may start taking it as a preventative measure after consulting with his doctor, even though there’s no evidence to show it works for that, either.

The president initially had suggested the country could reopen by Easter but pulled back seeing projections of a staggering death toll even if restrictive measures remain in place. But just days after extending tough national guidelines through the end of April, staring down historic levels of unemployment and economic standstill, he was talking about reopening as soon as possible, and speaking Saturday with leaders of professional sports leagues about filling arenas again.

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A mounting casualty of coronavirus crisis: Health care jobs

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Tens of thousands of medical workers across the United States are suddenly out of work as operating rooms and doctor’s offices go dark, casualties of urgent calls to prioritize coronavirus patients at overwhelmed hospitals and of the economic waves the crisis is churning.

Even as hospitals scrounge for professionals from the industry to treat the burgeoning numbers of people with COVID-19, others are on the sidelines as elective procedures, diagnostics and appointments are canceled or postponed.

For instance, many nurse anesthetists in Pennsylvania have been laid off, even though they are particularly critical to the coronavirus response because they can help intubate patients and manage them on ventilators.

“I certainly never thought there would be a day as a nurse that I would be filing for unemployment, so it’s quite surreal for all of us,” said Jess Poole, a nurse anesthetist who, until a couple weeks ago, worked for an anesthesia practice in the Pittsburgh area.

Big-city physician and specialist groups, tiny independent hospitals from Oregon to Connecticut, and big multistate hospital systems such as Steward Health Care are seeing big dropoffs in revenue and laying off or furloughing hundreds of workers.

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Trump calls fired watchdog in impeachment probe a ‘disgrace’

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Saturday criticized the ousted inspector general who handled an anonymous whistleblower’s complaint that sparked his impeachment as a “disgrace” and suggested that the independent watchdog should have discussed the complaint with him.

Trump informed Congress late Friday night that he was firing Michael Atkinson, saying in letters to the House and Senate intelligence committees that he had lost confidence in Atkinson. Atkinson’s removal is part of a larger shakeup of the intelligence community under Trump, who has always viewed intelligence professionals with skepticism.

Trump’s criticism Saturday came after Atkinson’s peers had rushed to his defense. Michael Horowitz, the inspector general at the Justice Department, said Atkinson was known for his “integrity, professionalism, and commitment to the rule of law and independent oversight.” He said that includes Atkinson’s actions in handling the Ukraine whistleblower complaint.

Asked during the daily coronavirus briefing about firing Atkinson, Trump returned to his attacks on the Democratic-led impeachment investigation and trial and his defense that his phone call with Ukraine’s president was “perfect” but had been inaccurately described in the whistleblower’s account. In fact, the partial transcript later released by the president largely supported the whistleblower’s account.

“I thought he did a terrible job, absolutely terrible,” Trump said of Atkinson, though he did not use his name while discussing the firing. The president added: “He took a fake report and he took it to Congress with an emergency, OK? Not a big Trump fan, that I can tell you.”

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Hidden suffering of coronavirus: Stigma, blaming, shaming

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — No one should have known Bella Lamilla’s name.

But within hours of her diagnosis as Ecuador’s first coronavirus case, it was circulating on social media along with photos showing the retired schoolteacher unconscious and intubated in a hospital bed. Her large, close-knit family watched in horror as a dual tragedy began to unfold: While Lamilla fought for her life in intensive care, strangers began tearing apart her reputation online.

“Knowing she had it, the old lady didn’t care and went all around,” one person commented on Facebook.

“It was ugly,” said Pedro Valenzuela, 22, Lamilla’s great-nephew. “It hurt a lot.”

The spreading global pandemic has tested the competing interests of public health and privacy, with thousands of individuals experiencing both physical illness and the less-visible stigma that can come with it. While there are many stories about good deeds and people coming together, the coronavirus is also bringing out another, darker side of some people: Fear, anger, resentment and shaming.

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What you need to know today about the virus outbreak

As the number of infections from the new coronavirus has grown to more than 1.1 million worldwide, health care systems are straining under the surge of patients and lack of medical equipment like ventilators, protective masks and gloves. The New York governor said the Chinese government was facilitating a shipment of 1,000 donated ventilators to his state.

In the U.S., governors are describing in stark terms the dog-eat-dog global marketplace they must navigate for the protective gear doctors, nurses and other front-line medical workers need as they brace for an expected wave of patients afflicted with severe cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

U.S. medical experts estimate the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic could reach 240,000 nationwide. The question of where to put the bodies is worrying just about everyone as cities, hospitals and private medical groups clamor to secure additional storage.

Here are some of AP’s top stories Saturday on the pandemic. Follow APNews.com/VirusOutbreak for updates through the day and APNews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak for stories explaining some of its complexities.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:

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A gentler Gotham? NYers anxiously wait out coronavirus

NEW YORK (AP) — To a casting director, he might have seemed the perfect impatient New Yorker — broad, bald and with a booming voice, tattoos on his neck and hands visible under his construction jacket. Justin Hunter stood in line outside the Park Slope Food Coop, one of several dozen shoppers spaced 6 feet apart in a queue that stretched around the corner.

Hunter’s attitude, though, was all wrong for the part. No griping about store management, no shoving ahead toward entrance — not even a hint of annoyance.

“That’s your normal, is people being on top of you,” Hunter said about New York. “Now that people are not on top of you, it’s become, ‘Well this is what we’re doing now.’”

Forget the old New Yorker’s refrain of “I’m walking here!” Big Apple citizens are taking a more tentative tack since the city became a hot zone for the novel coronavirus pandemic that has sickened at least 1.1 million people and killed more than 60,000 worldwide.

No pushing forward in lines. No irritably dodging slow-walking pedestrians. No swearing at yellow cabs for cutting into crosswalks. Moms with strollers are leaving wide berths for texting teens and slow-moving seniors. Supermarket shoppers are anxiously and awkwardly sidestepping each other, trying their best to keep six feet away.

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The week that was: Stories from the coronavirus saga

This past week, New York got worse — far worse. In New York City, as morgue space ran out, people started wondering where the bodies will go and the funeral industry struggled to keep up. On the streets of a city accustomed to the exact opposite of social distancing, New Yorkers found a new, gentler reality.

The American president’s virus briefings emerged as a strange kind of must-see TV, whether you loved them or hated them, and two Cuomo siblings — a beleaguered governor and his anchorman younger brother — became daily fixtures as well.

From France to Peru to Greece to an Ecuadorean city where bodies were piling up beyond, the effects of the virus — and the efforts to fight it — were evident all over the planet. The spaces we filled were now filled with space — even as Wuhan, China, site of the earliest known outbreak, started to reopen stores and restaurants.

Germany was scoring early wins because of more testing and intensive-care units; in Spain, where even makeshift ICUs were full, doctors were still making agonizing decisions about who to treat.

Associated Press journalists across the planet chronicled it all — in a week when they lost one of their longtime colleagues to COVID-19. This guide to some of their words and images is a diary of a world at once on pause and in the middle of the biggest fight of its generation.

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Virus alters Holy Week celebration worldwide, not the spirit

For Pope Francis at the Vatican, and for Christians worldwide from churches large and small, this will be an Easter like none other: The joyous message of Christ’s resurrection will be delivered to empty pews.

Worries about the coronavirus outbreak have triggered widespread cancellations of Holy Week processions and in-person services. Many pastors will preach on TV or online, tailoring sermons to account for the pandemic. Many extended families will reunite via Face Time and Zoom rather than around a communal table laden with an Easter feast on April 12.

“I’ll miss Mass and the procession,” said Aida Franco, 86, a retired teacher from Quito, Ecuador. “But God knows better.”

Pope Francis, the first pontiff from Latin America, will be celebrating Mass for Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday and Easter in a near-empty St. Peter’s Basilica, instead of in the huge square outside filled with Catholic faithful.

In the pope’s native Argentina, the archbishopric of La Plata encouraged the faithful to use any type of plant at home for a “virtual” blessing that will be livestreamed during Palm Sunday services this weekend.

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Asian Americans use social media to mobilize against attacks

Kyle Navarro was kneeling down to unlock his bicycle when he noticed an older white man staring at him. Navarro, who is Filipino, tried to ignore him, but that soon became impossible.

The man walked by, looked back and called Navarro a racial slur. He “spat in my direction, and kept walking,” Navarro said.

Navarro, a school nurse in San Francisco, already had anxiety about racism related to the coronavirus, which emerged in China and has Asian people facing unfounded blame and attacks as it’s spread worldwide. Now, he was outraged.

“My first instinct was to yell back at him in anger. But, after taking a breath, I realized that would have put me in danger,” Navarro said.

Instead, he took to Twitter last week to turn the ugly moment into an opportunity for a conversation about racism, generating thousands of sympathetic comments.