U.S. President Donald Trump sent off a Navy hospital ship from Norfolk, Virginia to New York Saturday to help ease the burden on the city's health care system that is being overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic.
During remarks in Virginia, Trump said the USNS Comfort "is a 70,000 ton message of hope and solidarity to the incredible people of New York, a place I know very well. A place I love."
"We're here for you, we're fighting for you," Trump added. "We are with you all the way and we always will be. You have the unwavering support of the entire nation, the entire government and the entire American people."
With nearly 26,700 confirmed cases, New York is the epicenter of outbreak in the U.S., now the world leader in infections with nearly 105,000 as of early Saturday, according to John's Hopkins University statistics.
The USNS Comfort is scheduled to arrive in New York on Monday, providing up to 1,000 beds for non-coronavirus patients, making more hospital beds available and allowing health care workers to devote more resources to combatting the highly-contagious virus.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres announced the donation Saturday of 250,000 surplus protective masks to medical professionals in New York "who have been working courageously, selflessly, and tirelessly in response to the spread of COVID-19 across the boroughs in the hope that they play some small role in saving lives."
As New York fights to contain the virus, its governor, Andrew Cuomo, said Saturday the state's April 28 presidential primary will be delayed until June 23.
"I don't think it's wise to be bringing a lot of people to one location to vote, a lot of people touching one doorknob, a lot of people touching one pen," Cuomo said during his daily coronavirus news briefing.
Trump's visit to Virginia comes one day after the U.S. Defense Department said the president is ready to have the National Guard and the Reserves join in the fight against COVID-19. The statement said people who are called up would be "persons in headquarters units and persons with heightened medical capabilities" and that federal agencies would confer with state officials before deploying them.
Also Friday, Trump signed a $2.2 trillion stimulus measure to bolster the economy that is reeling in the middle of the coronavirus and used government powers under the Defense Production Act to compel General Motors to manufacture ventilators to help COVID-19 patients as the U.S. became the first country in the world to surpass 100,000 coronavirus cases.
After being criticized by Trump for "wasting time," GM released a statement Friday saying it had been working since last week with Ventec Life System to mass produce critical care ventilators for the coronavirus pandemic.
There were more than 615,500 cases and over 28,700 deaths worldwide as of early Saturday, according to John's Hopkins.
Italy, second in the world in cases behind the U.S. with nearly 86,500, reported over 900 new deaths Saturday, the largest one-day death toll in the world since the outbreak erupted late last year.
The virus apparently spared a 101-year-old man in northern Italy. The mayor of Rimini told local news outlets the man was released from the hospital Thursday after being treated for COVID-19.
In India, where the world's largest coronavirus lockdown is underway, authorities have sent a fleet of buses that can accommodate some 52,000 people to the outskirts of the capital of New Delhi to meet migrant workers trying to return to their home villages.
Thousands of people fled their homes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a 21-day lockdown that began on Wednesday. Most of them are day laborers who lost their jobs, along with millions of others in India, because of restrictions on activity.
Britain, ranked 8th worldwide with more than 14,700 cases, was criticized in a scathing article in a British medical journal that said Britain's National Health Service was "wholly unprepared" for the coronavirus outbreak, and it is hard to understand why.
Richard Horton, editor of Lancet, said NHS officials had written an article for Lancet in January saying the virus "could be about to become a global epidemic" and that "preparedness plans should be readied for deployment at short notice...to deal with the consequences of a global outbreak of this magnitude."
The U.N. Secretary General said Friday the world's nations must work cooperatively in the fight against COVID-19, "or else we will be defeated by the virus."
Guterres said in an interview on the PBS News Hour he is "worried" that if the virus gets a foothold in Africa, millions of people will die" because "Africa is a continent with very little capacity to respond and I am extremely worried."
The U.N. announced late Friday that 86 members of its employees have coronavirus.