US braces for ‘hardest, saddest’ week as coronavirus deaths surpass 9,300

Some Michigan hospitals at capacity while Louisiana could run out of ventilators by Thursday

A Costco employee holds a sign letting shoppers know what is out of stock as they queue to get into the bulk shopping store in Washington, DC, on Sunday. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

A Costco employee holds a sign letting shoppers know what is out of stock as they queue to get into the bulk shopping store in Washington, DC, on Sunday. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

 

The United States enters one of the most critical weeks so far in the coronavirus crisis with the death toll exploding in New York, Michigan and Louisiana and some governors calling for a national stay-at-home order.

New York, the hardest-hit state, reported on Sunday that, for the first time in a week, deaths had fallen slightly from the day before, but there were still nearly 600 new fatalities and more than 7,300 new cases. Places such as Pennsylvania, Colorado and Washington, DC are starting to see rising deaths.

Bodies of victims of Covid-19 were stacked in bright orange bags inside a makeshift morgue outside the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn, according to photographs provided to Reuters.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo said on Sunday that new hospitalisations had fallen by 50 per cent over the previous 24 hours, but he cautioned that it was not yet clear whether the crisis was reaching a plateau in the state, which has a total of 4,159 deaths and more than 122,000 cases.

“The coronavirus is truly vicious and effective at what the virus does,” Mr Cuomo told a daily briefing. “It’s an effective killer.”

Once the peak of the epidemic passes, Mr Cuomo said a mass rollout of rapid testing would be critical to help the nation “return to normalcy”.

For now, some New York hospitals are scrambling to care for the flood of coronavirus patients. An email to staff by Columbia University Irving Medical Center in Manhattan said they must all be ready to redeploy to handle such patients regardless of an employee’s speciality. Those without approved exemptions for health or other reasons may be placed on unpaid leave or could be fired.

The hospital did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its message to staff.

‘Pearl Harbor moment’

US surgeon general Jerome Adams warned on Fox News Sunday that hard times were ahead but said “there is a light at the end of the tunnel if everyone does their part for the next 30 days”.

“This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives, quite frankly. This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment, only it’s not going to be localised,” he said. “It’s going to be happening all over the country. And I want America to understand that.”

Most states have ordered residents to stay home except for essential trips to slow the spread of the virus in the United States where over 327,000 people have tested positive and more than 9,300 have died.

However, a few churches were holding large gatherings on Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week in Christian churches.

“We’re defying the rules because the commandment of God is to spread the Gospel,” said Tony Spell, pastor at the Life Tabernacle megachurch in a suburb of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He has defied state orders against assembling in large groups and has already been charged with six misdemeanors.

Louisiana has become a hot spot for the virus, on Saturday reporting a jump in deaths to 409 and more than 12,000 cases.

Governor John Bel Edwards told CNN on Sunday that the state could run out of ventilators by Thursday. Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer said on Fox News Sunday that a number of hospitals there were already at capacity and the state needed more ventilators, tests and personal protective equipment. She said the pandemic was “growing exponentially” in Michigan.

‘Very horrendous’

White House medical experts have forecast that between 100,000 to 240,000 Americans could be killed in the pandemic, even if sweeping orders to stay home are followed.

President Donald Trump warned on Saturday that there were “very horrendous” days ahead.

Nevertheless, Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature decided to hold in-person voting for its presidential primary on Tuesday, when Democratic-led Colorado will also go ahead with local elections.

Washington state governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat, whose state recorded the country’s first confirmed C3ovid-19 infection but has since seen cases flatten after early action to prohibit activity, said if other states did not also impose strict measures, the virus would simply circulate.

“It would be good to have a national stay-at-home order,” he told NBC News’s Meet the Press programme. “Even if Washington gets on top of this fully, if another state doesn’t, it could come back and come across our borders two months from now.”

Republican Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, however, defended his refusal to order statewide restrictions, saying the situation was being watched closely and that his more “targeted approach” was still slowing the spread of the virus.

Mr Adams, the surgeon general, said governors who had not issued month-long stay-at-home orders should at least consider one for the upcoming week.

Kate Lynn Blatt (38), a property manager from rural Pottsville, Pennsylvania, said she was astounded that her state’s governor, Tom Wolf, waited until April 1st to issue a statewide stay-at-home order.

“We were shocked. I can’t believe Trump hasn’t issued a nationwide order and I still can’t believe there are states that are still open,” Ms Blatt said. – Reuters