Washington: The US has become the world’s first country to have registered more than 2,000 COVID-19 deaths in a single day with 2,108 fatalities reported in the past 24 hours, while the number of infections in America has crossed 500,000, the highest in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
China, where the deadly coronavirus disease started in December last year before spreading across Europe and America killing more than 100,000, has so far recorded 81,000 cases of positive infections and 3,339 deaths.
In terms of fatalities, the US might soon overtake Italy where 18,848 COVID-19 deaths have happened so far. By Friday night, the US had 1,8679 recorded deaths, closely behind Italy. More than 16,000 people have died in Spain and over 13,000 in Germany, the university data said.
By Friday night more than 2,108 Americans had died due to the novel coronavirus and 500,399 people had tested positive with the dreaded disease, it said.
The COVID-19 positive cases in the United States are now more than the other top countries taken together: Spain (158,000), Italy (147,000), Germany (122,000) and France (112,000).
New York, which has emerged as the epicenter of COVID-19 deaths, has registered over 1.7 lakh positive cases, which is more than any other country.
More than 7,800 people in New York have died due to coronavirus. New Jersey has has nearly 2,000 deaths and more than 54,000 confirmed cases.
Before the start of the week, members of the White House Task Force on Coronavirus had projected between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths in the US.
While President Donald Trump had said that this was going to be a “terrible, terrible” week in terms of death, US Surgeon General Jerome Adams said the week was going to be 9/11 and Pearl Harbour moment for the country.
On Friday, Trump told reporters that as per the new projections the death toll was expected to be below 60,000.
“Hard to believe that if you had 60,000 (deaths), you could never be happy, but that’s a lot fewer than we were originally told and thinking. So they said between 100 and 220,000 lives on the minimum side, and then up to 2.2 million lives if we didn’t do anything. But it showed a just tremendous resolve by the people,” he said.
Trump has declared a national emergency, has notified major disaster declaration for almost all of the 50 States and more than 95 per cent of the 330 million population are under stay-at-home order.
The American economy is headed for a recession, experts say.
New York, the epicenter, he said is showing signs of a “downward curve,” Trump said.
“A lot of that has to do with the aggressive strategy in saving so many lives. We’re saving so many lives compared to what it could have been,” he said.
“In New York, we’re seeing hospital admissions declining very substantially. And nationwide, the number of new cases per day is flattening substantially, suggesting that we are near the peak and our comprehensive strategy is working, Trump said.
Over time, the guidelines to slow the spread are decreasing the rate of new cases very substantially and will result in fewer hospital admissions, he added.
According to Dr Deborah Brix, a member of the White House Task Force on Coronavirus, the mortality rate in the United States is significantly less than many other countries.
“That is really solely the work of our frontline healthcare providers,” she said, but cautioned that the country has still not reached the peak.
“But as encouraging as they are, we have not reached the peak. And so, every day, we need to continue to do what we did yesterday and the week before and the week before that, because that’s what, in the end, is going to take us up across the peak and down the other side,” Brix said.
Coronavirus: Why have so many died in New York?
New York has more coronavirus cases than any country and accounts for around half of all deaths in the United States. Why was is so badly hit and could its leaders have done anything differently?
As of Friday, New York state had almost 160,000 confirmed COVID-19 infections, more than Europe’s worst-hit countries of Spain and Italy, and over 7,800 deaths.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has said repeatedly that density and number of foreign visitors made New York City, which has almost 93,000 confirmed cases, an ideal breeding ground for infectious disease.
America’s financial capital has 8.6 million inhabitants. There are 10,000 people per square kilometer, making it the densest city in the US.
Millions of commuters brush up against each other on its packed subway system every day, while keeping distance on its sometimes narrow sidewalks can be difficult.
NYC gets more than 60 million tourists a year and is the entry point to America for many travelers, meaning anyone carrying the virus is likely to start infecting others there first.
American geneticists estimate that it started spreading there from Europe in February, before New York’s first confirmed case on March 1.
The Big Apple is also characterized by massive socioeconomic inequality.
Overcrowded, deprived areas—particularly in the Bronx and Queens, where many people already suffer health problems and lack medical care—have experienced the highest rate of infections.
“New York City had all the preconditions that would support the idea that it was going to be hit very hard,” said Irwin Redlener, public health professor and expert in disaster preparedness at Columbia University.
On March 2, as the state’s second case was confirmed in New Rochelle, just north of New York City, Cuomo said the health care system was the best “on the planet.”
“We don’t even think it’s going to be as bad as it was in other countries,” he added.
After much hesitation, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the closure of public schools, bars and restaurants from March 16.
The governor ordered all non-essential businesses to close and residents to stay at home a week later on March 22.
Experts hesitate to say that they waited too long.
“The mayor and the governor were being pushed and pulled by two opposing forces.
“One was saying we have to close schools and restaurants as quickly as possible, the other saying there were lots of economic and social consequences of shutting down everything early,” said Redlener.
“Everyone was getting mixed messages, including from the federal government, from (President Donald) Trump,” he added.
California, America’s most populous state, is often cited as a good example for the speed of its response to the outbreak. Its confirmed cases as of Friday were just 20,200, with 550 deaths.
On March 16, six counties in the San Francisco Bay area issued a stay-at-home order followed by the whole state three days later.
“One thing that I think is significant is that six neighboring counties got together and issued the same (confinement) order for all six counties, and they did it early,” said Meghan McGinty, associate at school of public health of Johns Hopkins University.
“There was consistency, as opposed to NYC taking one measure, and Westchester (county) taking another, and Long Island taking another,” she told AFP.
Six days passed between New York’s school closure order and its order confining residents to their homes.
“In epidemic terms, six days is light years and can really make a difference in the control and spread of the epidemic, so I think it is possible to say that perhaps, in retrospect, New York waited too long,” said McGinty.
When the crisis passes, the blame game may begin.
Democrats Cuomo and de Blasio deplored for weeks the Trump administration’s delay in getting tests to states, which to this day are still not arriving in sufficient numbers.
The New York officials also targeted the federal government for dragging its heels in implementing emergency powers to manufacture lifesaving ventilators.
With the toll far exceeding the numbers killed on 9/11, Phil Murphy, the governor of neighboring New Jersey, which has also been badly affected, has called for a commission similar to the one set up to investigate the September 11, 2001 attacks.
“The warning signs were there… what happened? If you don’t know the answer, how are you going to make sure it’s not going to happen again?” Cuomo asked Friday.
Given the number of dead and millions of unemployed, “we have a moral obligation to study this pandemic,” concluded McGinty.
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