As U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Nears 11,000, Signs Show Pandemic May Be Peaking
TUESDAY, April 7, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- With U.S. deaths from coronavirus approaching 11,000 on Tuesday, signs emerged suggesting the pandemic might be peaking, experts say.
New York state saw lower totals of new coronavirus patients in hospitals for the fourth day in a row, and a new modeling forecast released Monday painted a slightly more positive picture of how the pandemic will play out in the United States.
On Sunday, President Donald Trump and his advisers predicted parts of the country were about to reach their respective peaks of COVID-19 cases, the Washington Post reported. While hailing a one-day decline in deaths in New York City, Trump warned that New York and New Jersey have "really become a very hot zone."
Earlier on Sunday, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams was more emphatic about what is to come.
"This is going to be the hardest and saddest week of most Americans' lives, quite frankly," Adams said during an appearance on Fox News.
"This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment, only it's not going to be localized. It's going to be happening all over the country," Adams added.
Coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx issued stark advice about the coming week to Americans on Sunday: "This is the moment to not be going to the grocery store, not going to the pharmacy, but doing everything you can to keep your family and your friends safe," she stressed.
That warning comes as many Americans prepare to celebrate religious holidays that mark the onset of spring. Passover begins Wednesday night, and Easter is this coming Sunday.
All Americans Urged to Wear Face Coverings in Public
Even if Americans go out in public this week, new federal guidance now urges all Americans to wear face coverings in public to curb the spread of COVID-19.
As Trump told the American public about the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation during a coronavirus task force briefing on Friday, he noted he will not be following it, the Times reported.
"With the masks, it is going to be a voluntary thing," Trump said. "You can do it. You don't have to do it. I am choosing not to do it. It may be good. It is only a recommendation, voluntary."
These face coverings can be non-medical masks, T-shirts or bandanas and they can be used while out at everyday shopping spots such as the grocery store, pharmacy or gas station, the Associated Press reported. Medical-grade masks would be reserved for those dealing directly with the sick.
Any additional COVID-19 prevention measures are welcome, as the number of coronavirus cases worldwide swept past 1 million.
As cases rise across the United States, the economy appeared headed toward a free fall.
Last Thursday, the U.S. Labor Department reported that 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment in the past week.
For the second straight week, jobless claims have been record-setting, with the latest claims bringing the two-week total to 10 million, the Times reported.
Until now, the worst week for unemployment filings was 695,000 in 1982, the newspaper reported.
As the troubling numbers kept climbing, state officials across the country said they are running out of face masks, gloves and other protective equipment amid reports that the federal government's emergency medical supply stockpile is rapidly dwindling, the Post reported.
'A lot of death' ahead
Last week, Trump held out the possibility of potential flight restrictions between hard-hit areas of the United States, the Post reported. However, he noted that it would be difficult to entirely suspend air travel.
"I am looking where flights are going into hot spots," Trump said at the time.
During a media briefing on Saturday, Trump warned citizens to brace for more deaths, CBS News reported.
"This will probably be the toughest week between this week and next week, and a lot of death, unfortunately," he said.
The death toll in the United States reached 10,959 on Tuesday and it continued to outpace other nations with more than 366,238 confirmed infections, a Johns Hopkins tally shows.
New York City struggles with cases
New York remains the hardest hit area of the country. More than 4,758 people have died in New York.
On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that officials are seeing the first signals that the outbreak there may be nearing its peak, but he stressed that it's not time yet to relax social distancing restrictions, .
"The numbers look like it may be turning," Cuomo said during a Monday media briefing.
The state has averaged just under 600 deaths daily for the past four days -- totals that were seen as a positive sign, the AP reported. Cuomo also said that the number of new patients entering New York hospitals daily has dropped, as has the number of critically ill patients needing ventilators.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, was cautiously optimistic, saying Monday that in New York, "what we have been doing has been working."
Meanwhile, the leaders of Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., have issued stay-at-home orders for the more than 15.2 million residents of those three states, the Post reported.
While all three jurisdictions had already banned gatherings, closed businesses and schools, and urged people to stay home, the new orders are mandatory and breaking them could include fines and potential jail time.
In the face of rapidly rising coronavirus case numbers and deaths, Trump backed down on plans to re-open the country by Easter -- instead extending strict social distancing guidelines for the country to April 30.
As the U.S. economy continues to falter, Americans started to try to find out if they can receive benefits from a $2 trillion stimulus package that was passed into law in March.
The legislation should send $1,200 to millions of Americans, including those earning up to $75,000, along with $500 per child. It will also give an additional 13 weeks in unemployment aid and a four-month enhancement of jobless benefits, the Times reported.
Hospitals on the front lines of the pandemic will also get $100 billion, the Times reported.
The help comes not a moment too soon, as roughly 90% of Americans are under stay-at-home orders, the AP reported.
New York state is the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, with nearly 131,000 cases and 4,758 deaths, according to the Times.
Meanwhile, the home of the U.S. Open in Queens has been turned into a triage center, and hospital tents were being set up in Central Park, the newspaper reported.
Cases are just starting to spike elsewhere, particularly in the South: Louisiana, Florida and Georgia are facing alarming increases, with 36,046 cases and 1,059 deaths reported in those three states alone, the Times reported Tuesday.
Some health officials are warning that parts of Michigan, Colorado and Illinois could be the next epicenters of the coronavirus pandemic, CNN reported. By Tuesday, Michigan had reported 17,130 cases and 727 deaths, the Times reported.
As different nations wonder what is in store for their citizens in the coming months, one glimmer of hope has emerged: China has lifted travel restrictions on the Hubei province, which was hardest hit by coronavirus earlier this year. And on Tuesday, the country claimed its first day since January with no coronavirus deaths at all.
The good news in China stood in sharp relief to what is unfolding in Europe.
On Tuesday, Spain reported nearly 14,000 deaths, despite signs the infection rate is slowing, a Johns Hopkins tally showed. Meanwhile, Italy recorded over 16,500 deaths, the worst of any country, though new infections continued to level off.
In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday that he would declare a state of emergency in seven prefectures that include the country's largest population centers as cases there are on the rise, the Times reported. Abe also announced an economic stimulus package worth nearly $1 trillion.
In the United Kingdom, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was moved to intensive care Monday evening after being taken to St. Thomas' hospital over the weekend for persistent COVID-19 symptoms.
In the meantime, the public lives of Americans have come to a halt, as the coronavirus pandemic has prompted officials across the country to close, cancel or postpone any event or activity that might foster the spread of COVID-19.
New York, New Jersey and California have been hard hit by coronavirus cases in the United States. New York has almost 131,000 cases, New Jersey has more than 41,000 cases and California's case count is just over 16,000, according to the Times.
However, signs of hope emerged in Washington state, where strict social distancing measures may be contributing to a leveling off in new cases, the Times reported.
Worldwide, the number of reported infections neared 1.4 million on Tuesday, with nearly 76,000 deaths, according to the Hopkins tally.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus.
SOURCES: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, April 3, 2020; March 31, 2020, media briefing with President Donald Trump; April 6, 2020, media briefing with N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo; CNN; Associated Press; The New York Times; Washington Post; NBC News; CBS News