NEW YORK — The Tokyo Olympics were postponed a year as coronavirus deaths and infections surged in Europe and the U.S. on Tuesday, with New York warning it is about to get hit by a “bullet train.” Stocks soared after Washington lawmakers said they were close on a nearly $2 trillion deal to help businesses and ordinary Americans pull through the crisis, but talks dragged on over some sticking points.
Around the globe, India, with 1.3 billion people, or one-sixth of the Earth’s population, ordered the biggest lockdown in the world. A flicker of hope that Italy might be turning the corner faded after officials reported an increase in new cases and deaths. And Spain had so many bodies it commandeered an ice rink to store them.
More than 420,000 people worldwide have been infected and over 18,900 have died, according to a running count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
In New York City, one of the biggest hot spots, authorities rushed to set up thousands of hospital beds for potential victims. The number of cases is doubling every three days, threatening to swamp the city’s intensive care units in the weeks ahead, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. The state has recorded more than 200 deaths, or one-third of the U.S. total.
“One of the forecasters said to me: ‘We were looking at a freight train coming across the country,’” the governor said. “We’re now looking at a bullet train.”
Cuomo proposed the country send thousands of ventilators to New York City — the metropolitan area needs 30,000 of them, he said — and demanded that President Donald Trump use wartime authority to force manufacturers to produce them.
“People said it’s a war. It is a war. Then act like it’s a war!” Cuomo said.
Trump has invoked the Korean War-era Defense Production Act to deter hoarding but has been reluctant to use it to force companies to produce medical supplies. Vice President Mike Pence said on Fox News that 2,000 ventilators have been shipped to New York and 2,000 more will be sent Wednesday.
Dr. Deborah Birx, who’s coordinating the U.S. coronavirus response, told reporters that people leaving New York City should quarantine themselves for two weeks.
The International Olympic Committee postponed the 2020 Tokyo Olympics until the summer of 2021 at the latest, acting on the recommendation of Japan’s prime minister. That could be a heavy economic blow to Japan and could upset athletes’ training regimens, perhaps costing some of them a shot at a medal.
Still, some competitors were relieved.
“A huge decision but I think the right one for sure,” British sprinter Adam Gemili said on Twitter. “Time to regain, look after each other during this difficult period and go again when the time is right!”
In Washington, top congressional and White House officials said they expected to reach a deal soon on a package to shore up businesses and send relief checks to ordinary Americans of $1,200 per person or $3,000 for a family of four. While the two sides have resolved many issues in the sweeping package, talks continued on the final details.
Later, at a briefing with reporters, Trump said public health officials and economists were “working to develop a sophisticated plan to open the economy as soon as the time is right — based on the best science, the best modeling and the best medical research there is anywhere on earth.”
With infections in the U.S. exceeding 50,000, including more than 690 deaths, public health experts have warned that failing to maintain social distancing would balloon infections to the point the health care system would be overwhelmed and many more people would die.
In one of the outbreak’s first celebrity deaths, Terrence McNally, the Tony-winning playwright whose credits included “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” “Ragtime,” “Love! Valour! Compassion!” and “Master Class,” died in Florida of complications from the virus at age 81, his representative said. McNally was a lung cancer survivor who lived with chronic inflammatory lung disease.
Spain, meanwhile, registered a record one-day increase of nearly 6,600 new infections and a leap of more than 500 in the death toll, to almost 2,700.
The country started storing bodies in an ice rink converted to a morgue until they could be buried or cremated. Also, army troops disinfecting nursing homes discovered elderly people living amid the corpses of suspected coronavirus victims. Prosecutors opened an investigation.
Spain’s interior minister said police have arrested more than 900 people for defying the government’s order to stay home.
As health care workers worked around the clock, they also struggled with scarce supplies.
“All over the country, you see examples of workers inventing homemade suits using plastics,” said Olga Mediano, a lung specialist at a hospital in Guadalajara, a city outside Madrid. “The protective suits are fundamental because without health workers, we won’t be able to do anything.”