The U.S. is now the leading country in the world in coronavirus caseloads – a grim milestone in the fight against the global pandemic. The novel coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2, which was first detected in the country on Jan. 20 from a person who had recently returned from Wuhan, China, has since spread to at least 85,996 people in the U.S., across all 50 states, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University. In addition, deaths caused by the coronavirus blew past 1,000 on Wednesday night.
This puts the U.S. ahead of China, where the outbreak started, and Italy, which has the most deaths worldwide. Currently, China and Italy have 81,897 and 80,589 confirmed cases as of writing, respectively.
In New York, now the hardest-hit area in the U.S., doctors are scrambling to manage nearly 38,000 infections, which account for nearly half of all cases in the country. The New York City metro area, in particular, contains 35 percent of all new cases in the country, according to Deborah Brix, response coordinator for the White House’s coronavirus task force, in a briefing on Thursday. Other states, in comparison, have fewer than 200 confirmed cases.
The state also recorded exactly 100 deaths on Thursday, its highest over a 24-hour period. In a statement, Gov. Andrew Cuomo noted that the city and state are still heading toward the worst weeks of the crisis.
“That’s what comes first: the rate of increase in the number of cases,” he stated. “That’s what we are looking for.”
In New York City, over 3,700 have tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday, bringing the city’s total to more than 21,000. Health authorities of the city, however, noted that while the increase is still significant, it isn’t as dramatically higher than the day before, an indication that the pandemic may no longer be expanding exponentially.
The governor assured the public that hospitals have enough personal protective equipment for the immediate future, but cautioned that even best-case scenarios will still overwhelm hospitals, given the surge of new cases.
“Almost any scenario will overwhelm the health care capacity. That’s reality,” he added. (Related: New York City becomes the new Wuhan: Big Apple now the new US epicenter of global coronavirus pandemic.)
Across the country, other states have also reported an upswing in cases. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards reported 510 new cases in the state on Thursday to raise the total caseloads to 2,305. The governor also warned of a surge in cases in Louisiana, which can be traced to Mardi Gras celebrations late last month.
In his press conference, Edwards also warned New Orleans residents to help flatten the infection curve “soon.” Otherwise, the city will run out of critical medical supplies as early as April.
“It’s not conjecture, it’s not some flimsy theory, this is not a scare tactic, this is what is going to happen,” he said.
“All you have to do to save lives is stay home.”
Meanwhile, Michigan also reported a surge in new cases on Thursday, with 564 new cases and 17 more deaths, to bring the total caseload to 2,856, with 60 deaths. According to health officials, half of the cases in the state are from Wayne County and Detroit. Earlier this week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a statewide stay-home order for three weeks to help slow the spread of the virus and preserve hospital staff and equipment.
“This is a reminder of why Gov. Whitmer’s order was so important. It is not just elderly people who are dying of this disease,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan added. “Something about it, young individuals are severely affected as well.”
Chicago’s iconic lakefront and other high-profile areas were also closed off on Thursday after Illinois reported 673 new coronavirus cases – the largest surge of cases since the virus was first reported in the state.
“The numbers indicate that this will affect all of us, or someone that we know,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot. “And what’s more, it has the potential to break the back of our health care system if we don’t act decisively.”
Lightfoot also urged locals to act responsibly and stay at home – or risk plunging the city into chaotic conditions like that of New York.
“This will push us to the brink,” she added.
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