NEW YORK (Reuters) – Governors of New York and New Jersey reported provisional signs on Monday that the coronavirus epidemic was starting to plateau, but warned of complacency as the death toll on the scale nationwide has exceeded 10,000 and that the number of known U.S. infections has exceeded 350,000.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said statewide coronavirus deaths reached 4,758 on Monday, an increase of 599 from Sunday, the same level as 594 in the past 24 hours. The state’s death toll rose by 630 on Friday.
The overall count of confirmed cases in the state, the US epicenter of the pandemic, increased 7% from the previous day to 130,680. But hospitalizations, admissions to intensive care units and the number of Patients put on ventilation devices to make them breathe have all decreased – signs that the crisis could stabilize, said Cuomo.
“While none of this is good news, the possible flattening of the curve is better than the increases we have seen,” Cuomo said in a daily briefing, referring to the shape of the curve when the number of cases, deaths and other data are plotted on a graph.
Timid signs of growth propelled US stocks up, with the S&P 500 index up almost 5.5%. The overall index is now down about 22% from its February 19 peak, compared to its March low, when it was 30% from its peak.
Cuomo warned that it was still too early to tell if the state had turned the corner, saying, “If we stagnate, we stagnate at a high level.”
In neighboring New Jersey, the state with the second highest number of cases and deaths, Governor Phil Murphy said in a briefing: “Our efforts to smooth the curve are starting to pay off.” There was a 24% daily increase in positive cases on March 30, but the growth rate had slowed to 12% on Monday.
In total, New Jersey has confirmed more than 41,000 cases and more than 1,000 deaths from COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the virus.
Murphy warned that if the guidelines on social distancing and hand washing were relaxed, a wave of cases would overwhelm the health care system with “disastrous” results.
To prevent his state from backing down, Cuomo extended an order to close non-essential businesses and schools until April 29. He also doubled the maximum fines for ignoring the social distancing rules at $ 1,000.
“This virus launched our hindquarters,” said Cuomo. “Now is not the time to let go of what we are doing.”
At least one key analysis suggested that the death rate was slowing in the United States. The University of Washington research model – one of many cited by major health authorities – now predicts 81,766 coronavirus deaths in the United States as of August 4, down about 12,000 from a screening of this weekend.
White House medical experts predicted that between 100,000 and 240,000 American lives could be lost during the pandemic, even if orders to stay at home were followed.
“PEAK DEATH WEEK”
Despite the hopeful tone in New York and New Jersey, an American national health official said the country was entering what is probably its deadliest week of the pandemic.
Deaths in the U.S., 10,297 on Monday, were rapidly approaching Italy and Spain, the countries with the greatest loss of life to date, with nearly 16,000 and more than 13,000, respectively , according to a Reuters tally of official data.
“It will be the peak of hospitalization, the peak of the week in intensive care and unfortunately the peak of death,” said Admiral Brett Giroir, a doctor and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, on Monday.
He said New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and the city of Detroit, Michigan would be particularly affected.
“Whether you live in a small town in America or live in the” Big Apple “, everyone is sensitive to this, and everyone must follow the precautions that we have defined,” said Giroir during the NBC’s “Today” show.
More than 90% of Americans are subject to residence orders issued by state governors in recent weeks, while eight states have yet to impose such restrictions.
Political leaders and health professionals have been alarming for weeks about the scarcity of personal protective equipment for first responders and front-line health workers, as well as the shortage of ventilators, drugs and other supplies.
Citing the dire needs of New York and other states, California governor Gavin Newsom said his state would lend 500 of its ventilators to the largely depleted strategic national medical supplies.
California still faces a fan shortage expected next month. Newsom said California is planning to buy more machines, but has had enough for the moment.
“NEED FOR HEROES”
In Michigan, the governor has said that three major health systems should run out of face masks in less than three days and surgical gowns in less than six days.
Medication for patients on respirators is also low, said John Fox, president of Beaumont Health, one of Michigan’s largest health systems.
New York mayor Bill de Blasio said a shortage of health care professionals was replacing the lack of equipment as the city’s biggest problem, with 45,000 additional clinical staff needed to get through April.
“Increasingly, the challenge is going to be the staff,” de Blasio told reporters outside a surgical gown factory. “We need these supplies, but we also need heroes to carry them.”
The city has reported more than 3,100 dead and may have to temporarily bury the dead in a park, said Mark Levine, chairman of the New York City Council’s health committee.
“Trenches will be dug for 10 online coffins,” Levine wrote on Twitter. “It will be done in a dignified, orderly – and temporary manner. But it will be difficult for the NYers to take. ”
Report by Nathan Layne, Peter Szekely and Barbara Goldberg; additional reports from Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey; Writing by Daniel Trotta and Grant McCool; Editing by Frank McGurty, Howard Goller and Cynthia Osterman