The United States recorded nearly 1,500 deaths from COVID-19 between Thursday and Friday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, the worst 24-hour death toll globally since the pandemic began.
With 1,480 deaths counted between 8:30pm (0030 GMT) Thursday and the same time Friday, according to the universitys continuously updated figures, the total number of people who have died since the start of the pandemic in the United States is now 7,406.
Surging deaths in New York City and New Orleans showed that a wave of lethal coronavirus infections expected to overwhelm hospitals, even in relatively affluent, urban areas with extensive healthcare systems, has begun to crash down on the United States.
Governors, mayors and physicians have voiced alarm for weeks over crippling scarcities of personal protective gear for first-responders and front-line healthcare workers, as well as ventilators and other medical supplies.
With the federal government’s national strategic stockpile of such equipment nearly depleted, states have been forced essentially to compete against each other on the open market for vital resources.
Cities across the country have also scrambled to expand hospital capacity and recruit healthcare professionals out of retirement to meet looming shortages of sick beds and personnel.
New York City, the pandemic’s US epicenter, has mere days to prepare for the worst of the outbreak, said Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose city has suffered more than a quarter of the 7,000-plus coronavirus deaths to date nationwide.
New York is in an “extraordinary race against time,” de Blasio told a news briefing on Friday, renewing his call for the federal government to mobilise the US military.
“We’re dealing with an enemy that is killing thousands of Americans, and a lot of people are dying who don’t need to die,” he said. “You can’t say, every state for themselves, every city for themselves. That is not America.”
Americans, almost all of them under orders to stay home except for essential outings such as grocery shopping or seeing a doctor, have heard conflicting guidance in recent days about the need for wearing face masks in public.
At the White House on Friday, President Donald Trump seemed to muddy the waters further when he announced that federal health authorities are now recommending individuals wear cloth face coverings to stem transmission of the virus. But he stressed the advisory was purely voluntary, and that he would not be heeding the recommendation himself.
“With the masks, it’s going to be a really voluntary thing. You can do it, you don’t have to do it. I’m choosing not to do it,” he said.
Doctors and nurses, many lacking adequate supplies of medical-grade face masks and other protective gear, were already confronting an onslaught from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the highly contagious coronavirus.
One physician at a New York City hospital recounted arriving at work on Friday to learn that three of his COVID-19 patients had died that morning. A few hours later, he had intubated two others.
“I’ve never seen anything like this. I’ve never even heard of something like this in the developed world,” he told Reuters on condition of anonymity, because he was not authorized to speak with the media.
Another hot spot, Louisiana, reported a sharp jump in deaths, climbing 20% to 370 on Friday, marking the highest day-to-day increase in fatal cases yet for the Gulf Coast state.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards pleaded for residents to abide by his state-at-home order as the number of infections statewide surpassed 10,000.
“For those of you who are not taking the crisis seriously, I am asking you to do a better job,” he told a news conference.
Louisiana’s largest city, New Orleans, where Mardi Gras celebrations in late February are believed to have spread the virus before social distancing orders were imposed, has become a focal point of the crisis.
The outbreak there has proven far more lethal than elsewhere in the United States, with a per-capita death rate twice that of New York City. Doctors, public health officials and available data suggest the Big Easy’s high levels of obesity and related ailments may be part of the problem.
In New York, the US state hardest hit by the coronavirus in sheer numbers of infections and lives lost, the cumulative number of fatalities rose above 2,900 — on par with the death toll from the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
“Personally, it’s hard to go through this all day, and then it’s hard to stay up all night watching those numbers come in,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
New York City alone accounted for more than a quarter of the 7,077 US coronavirus deaths tallied by Johns Hopkins University on Friday. Known US infections, approaching 275,000 cases, made up about 25% of the more than 1 million cases reported worldwide.
Global death toll rises to 57,000
The worldwide number of officially confirmed fatalities from the novel coronavirus rose to 57,474 on Friday, according to a tally compiled by AFP from official sources.
More than 1,082,470 declared cases have been registered in 188 countries and territories since the epidemic first emerged in China in December. Of these cases, at least 205,400 are now considered recovered.
The tallies, using data collected by AFP offices from national authorities and information from the World Health Organisation (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections.
Many countries are only testing cases that require hospitalisation.
Italy, which recorded its first coronavirus death at the end of February, has 14,681 fatalities, with 119,827 infections and 19,758 people recovered.
Spain has recorded 10,935 fatalities and 117,710 infections.
China — excluding Hong Kong and Macau — has to date declared 3,322 deaths and 81,620 cases, with 76,571 recoveries.
France has reported 6,507 deaths and 83,165 cases.
The United States has the highest official number of infected people with 261,438 diagnosed cases, 6,699 deaths and 9,428 recoveries.
Since 1900 GMT on Thursday, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Libya and the Northern Marianas have announced their first deaths.
Europe has listed 587,386 cases and 41,985 deaths to date, the US and Canada together have 273,199 cases with 6,865 deaths, Asia 114,493 cases and 4,082 deaths, the Middle East 67,739 cases and 3,451 deaths, Latin America and the Caribbean 25,839 cases with 735 deaths, Africa 7,592 cases with 323 deaths and Oceania 6,228 cases with 33 deaths.