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In Grim Milestone, United States Logs World’s Highest COVID-19 Death Toll

US President Donald Trump speaks during the coronavirus response daily briefing at the White House in Washington, US, Apr 10, 2020.
Credit: Reuters/ Yuri Gripas/ Files

NEW YORK: The United States surpassed Italy on Saturday (Apr 11) as the country with the highest reported coronavirus death toll, recording more than 20,000 deaths since the outbreak began, according to a Reuters tally.

The grim milestone was reached as President Donald Trump mulled over when the country, which has registered more than half a million infections, might begin to see a return to normality.

The United States has seen its highest death tolls to date in the epidemic with roughly 2,000 deaths a day reported for the last four days in a row, a plurality of them in and around New York City. Even that is viewed as an understatement, as New York is still figuring out how best to include a surge in deaths at home in its official statistics.

Public health experts have warned that the US death toll could reach 200,000 over the summer if unprecedented stay-at-home orders that have closed businesses and kept most Americans indoors are lifted after 30 days.

Most of the present restrictions on public life, however, including school closures and emergency orders keeping non-essential workers largely confined to their homes, flow from powers vested in state governors, not the president.

Nonetheless, Trump has said he wants life to return to normal as soon as possible and that the measures aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus carry their own economic and public-health cost.

In New York on Saturday, the state’s governor and New York City’s mayor engaged in a fresh squabble over their efforts to combat the virus in what is now the global epicentre, in this instance over how long schools might stay closed.

The state was sometimes slower to impose social-distancing restrictions than other jurisdictions, notably in California, while New York’s two most powerful officials, both Democrats, sometimes disagreed with each other over matters of jurisdiction and the best terminology to use for certain measures.

They have not appeared in public together since Mar 2.

On Saturday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio declared that New York City’s public schools would no longer reopen on April 20 but stay closed for the rest of the academic year, saying it was “the right thing to do.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, however, later used his widely watched daily news conference to dismiss the mayor’s edict as merely an “opinion,” and say he would make his own decision on school closures.

The current federal guidelines advocating for widespread social-distancing measures run until Apr 30. Trump, who is seeking re-election in November, will then have to decide whether to extend them or start encouraging people to go back to work and a more normal way of life.

Trump said he would unveil a new advisory council, possibly on Tuesday, that will include some state governors and will focus on the process of reopening the economy.

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits in the last three weeks surpassed 16 million, as weekly new claims topped 6 million for the second straight time last week.

The government has said the economy purged 701,000 jobs in March. That was the most job losses since the Great Recession and ended the longest employment boom in US history that started in late 2010.

Source: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/in-grim-milestone-united-states-logs-world-s-highest-covid-19-12634124

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