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Saturday Apr 11 2020

US coronavirus cases top 500,000, death toll rises to 18,600

Healthcare workers wheel the bodies of deceased people from the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, New York, US. Photo: Reuters

The number of confirmed cases in the United States topped 500,000 on Friday, according to a Reuters tally, although there are signs that Americans staying home was helping to curb new infections.

Confirmed US cases of the COVID-19 illness caused by the virus have been rising by 30,000 to 35,000 cases a day as testing becomes more available. Globally, there have been over 1.6 million confirmed cases, with the death toll topping 100,000 on Friday.

US deaths topped 18,600 on Friday as officials warned that fatalities would likely peak this week as then decline as there was evidence that the number of new infections was flattening in New York state, the epicenter of the US outbreak.

With many Americans celebrating the Easter holiday on Sunday, the top US infectious disease expert warned that it is too early to relax restrictions on Americans.

Read also: Trump to make important announcement on US funding to WHO next week

“Now is no time to back off,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

The social distancing guidelines have taken a toll on the US economy. Some economists are forecasting job losses of up to 20 million in April, raising questions about how long business closures and travel restrictions can be sustained. The Trump administration’s top economic officials said on Thursday they believe the US economy could start to reopen for normal business in May.

Only Italy has more coronavirus deaths than the United States, with 18,849 fatalities reported on Friday, although it has a much smaller population. After a marked reduction from previous peaks, new infections have picked up in the past two days, frustrating hopes that the illness was in clear retreat.

President Donald Trump on Friday ordered top administration officials to help Italy in fighting the novel coronavirus by providing medical supplies, humanitarian relief and other assistance.

"The Italian Republic (Italy), one of our closest and oldest Allies, is being ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has already claimed more than 18,000 lives, brought much of the Italian healthcare system to the brink of collapse, and threatens to push Italy's economy into a deep recession," Trump said in the memo.

New York 'cautiously optimistic' with first daily drop in ICU patients

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Friday that the number of coronavirus patients in intensive care units across the state dropped in the last day, offering a glimmer of hope that the surge in critical care hospitalizations might be leveling off.

Read also: Coronavirus spoils Easter holidays as death toll nears 100,000

Cuomo said there were 17 fewer patients in the state’s intensive care units on Thursday than a day prior. This was the first time that group of patients has decreased in a day since the outbreak took hold and a sign that social distancing measures are successfully reducing the virus’ spread.

New York, the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States, has recorded 7,844 deaths from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, nearly half of the total across the United States.

“What we do will affect, literally, life and death for hundreds of people,” Cuomo said during a media briefing, adding state officials were “cautiously optimistic” because of the lowering of some hospitalization trends.

“Keep doing what we’re doing. Stay home because that works. We are flattening the curve,” he said.

There were 290 new hospital admissions in a day, above the 200 admitted a day earlier but far less than just over a week ago when more than 1,400 New Yorkers were hospitalized for the coronavirus in a day, Cuomo said.

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The number of deaths in New York per day from coronavirus continues to hover in the high 700s, with 777 deaths recorded in the last day compared to 799 a day prior.

While New York has tested some 390,000 people for the coronavirus, more than any other state, Cuomo said the limited availability of testing could delay the reopening of businesses and travel.

The federal government should use the Defense Production Act to increase US testing capabilities, he said, adding New York, Connecticut and New Jersey would join any effort to get testing “up to scale.”

“We need an unprecedented mobilization where the government can produce these tests in the millions,” Cuomo said.