What you need to know today about the virus outbreak

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As the number of infections 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. All of which has heightened concerns about the exposure of hospital personnel.

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 the new coronavirus.

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:

  • South Korea has extended government guidelines urging people to social distance to slow the spread of the coronavirus for two weeks as infections continue to grow in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area. Prime Minster Chung Sye-kyun says rising infections are linked to recent arrivals amid broadening outbreaks in Europe and the U.S.
  • America’s armed services are struggling to get new recruits as families and communities hunker down. Recruiters scrounging for recruits online are often finding people too consumed with their own financial and health care worries to consider a military commitment right now.
  • The coronavirus pandemic could narrow one gaping inequality in Africa, where some heads of state and other elite jet off to Europe or Asia for health care unavailable in their nations. As countries including their own impose dramatic travel restrictions, they might have to take their chances at home.
  • Despite the growing infection and death toll, some hospitals are laying off medical personnel because of sharp reductions in elective procedures and other treatment not related to battling the new coronavirus.
  • Funeral homes across the U.S. are restricting the number of mourners at services. Many families find it hard to choose which loved ones will be invited to the in-person gathering and which will be relegated to watch via livestream, if at all.
  • Bans on group gatherings are creating tension between government and houses of worship whose leaders bristle at the prospect of online religious services.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as a fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

Here are the symptoms of the virus compared with the common flu.

One of the best ways to prevent spread of the virus is washing your hands with soap and water. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends first washing with warm or cold water and then lathering soap for 20 seconds to get it on the backs of hands, between fingers and under fingernails before rinsing off.

You should wash your phone, too. Here’s how.

TRACKING THE VIRUS:

Drill down and zoom in at the individual county level, and you can access numbers that will show you the situation where you are, and where loved ones or people you’re worried about live.

ONE NUMBER:

4,000: Britain is temporarily releasing about 4,000 inmates to ease crowding and try to slow the spread of the new coronavirus in prisons.

IN OTHER NEWS:

PETS FINDING HOMES: Shelters from California to New York have put out the call for people to temporarily foster pets. Thanks to an overwhelming response, shelters say they have placed record numbers of dogs, cats and other animals.

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