Over 1.5 billion globally asked to stay home to escape virus

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PARIS (AP) — The hunt for masks, ventilators and other medical supplies consumed the U.S. and Europe, as more than 1.5 billion people — one-fifth of the world’s population — were urged or ordered to stay home Monday to try to blunt the spread of the coronavirus.

Political paralysis stalled efforts for a quick aid package from Congress. Investor fears about the outbreak’s economic toll pushed U.S. stocks down in morning trading even after the Federal Reserve said it will buy as much government debt as necessary and lend to small and large businesses and local governments to help them cope.

In New York, a near-lockdown took effect statewide over the weekend amid worries the city of 8.4 million could become one of the world’s biggest hot spots. Nearly 10,000 people have tested positive in the city, and almost 100 have died.

The governor announced plans to convert a huge New York City convention center into a hospital with 1,000 beds. Meanwhile, the mayor warned that the city’s hospitals are just 10 days away from shortages in “really basic supplies” needed to protect health care workers and patients alike.

“If we don’t get the equipment, we’re literally going to lose lives,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN.

The risk to doctors, nurses and others on the front lines has become plain: Italy has seen at least 18 doctors with coronavirus die. Spain reported that more than 3,900 health care workers have become infected, accounting for roughly 12% of the country’s total cases.

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