Up to 200,000 US deaths predicted as more cities stricken
New York: The coronavirus outbreak could kill 100,000 to 200,000 Americans, the US government's top infectious-disease expert warned as smoldering hotspots in nursing homes and a growing list of stricken cities heightened the sense of dread across the country.
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made the dire prediction of fatalities on CNN, adding that millions in the US could become infected.
By midafternoon on Sunday, the US had over 135,000 infections and 2300 deaths, according to the running tally kept by Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases is thought to be considerably higher because of testing shortages and mild illnesses that have gone unreported.
Emergency workers at the Elmhurst Hospital Centre in Queens, New York.Credit:Bloomberg
Worldwide, more than 710,000 infections were reported, and deaths topped 33,000, half of them in Italy and Spain, where hospitals are swamped and the health system is at the breaking point.
New York State – where the death toll closed in on 1000, up by more than 200 from the day before – remained the epicentre of the US outbreak, with the vast majority of the deaths in New York City. But spikes in infections were recorded around the country, not only in metropolitan areas but in Midwestern towns and Rocky Mountain ski havens.
"This is not going to get better soon," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
The virus is moving fast through nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other places that house elderly or otherwise vulnerable people, spreading "like fire through dry grass," Cuomo said.
Since the US saw its first major outbreak of the coronavirus earlier this month – centred at a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington – a stream of facilities have battled infections among residents and staff.
A week ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 147 nursing homes in 27 states had patients with COVID-19. The problem has only worsened since.
In Woodbridge, New Jersey, an entire nursing home relocated its residents after two dozen were confirmed infected and the rest were presumed to be. In Louisiana, at least 11 nursing homes, largely in the New Orleans area, have reported cases. In Mount Airy, Maryland, a death linked to the virus was recorded in a home where 66 people were confirmed infected.
In New York, the virus is overwhelming some of the city's poorest neighborhoods, with data showing high rates of infection in densely packed areas with big non- English-speaking populations.
Dr Craig Smith, who heads the surgery department at New York- Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Centre, said the hospital will probably be forced into "apocalyptic scenarios" in the coming weeks in which ventilators and intensive care unit beds will need to be rationed.
"Yesterday tried my soul," he wrote in an online posting.
Worry for the poorest was being echoed around the world.
In India, a lockdown covering the country's 1.3 billion people has put untold numbers out of work and left many families struggling to feed themselves. Tens of thousands in New Delhi were forced to flee their homes, with no way to pay the rent, journeying back to their native villages. Women in saris held babies on their hips. Others toted their belongings in bags normally used for cement.
Indian migrant workers crowd to board buses to return to their native villages after a nationwide lockdown was announced.Credit:Getty Images
Prime Minister Narendra Modi apologized for the hardships that the lockdown brought but said, "These tough measures were needed to win this battle."
Though the US leads the world in reported cases, five other countries have higher death tolls: Italy, Spain, China, Iran and France.
About 150,000 people have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins.
President Donald Trump on Saturday backtracked on a threat to quarantine New York and neighboring states amid criticism and questions about the legality of such a move. But the CDC issued a travel advisory urging all residents of New York City and others in New York state, New Jersey and Connecticut to avoid all nonessential travel for 14 days.
Shocking as that is for Americans, that stopped short of the restrictions imposed in Europe or elsewhere. Parisians are fined if they try to leave the city, South Africans can't even buy liquor, and Serbians are upset over a ban on walking their dogs. In Italy, burials are being held with only one family member.
Some US states began to try to limit exposure from visitors from harder-hit areas. Rhode Island National Guard troops went door to door in coastal communities to find New Yorkers. Florida is setting up checkpoints to screen visitors from Louisiana.
As others tightened controls, China continued to ease its restrictions, following the ruling Communist Party's declaration of victory over the coronavirus. Flights from Hubei province at the epicentre of the country's outbreak resumed on Sunday.
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