The state of New York tested 8,000 people for the coronavirus overnight in what may be the largest batch of testing to date in the United States, likely leading to a spike in positive cases once results come in, Governor Andrew Cuomo said yesterday.
With the United States slow to roll out mass testing for the virus – which has spread rapidly to become a global pandemic – some health officials have feared the number of known cases lags far behind reality.
Yesterday the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 10,491 cases of coronavirus, an increase of 3,404 cases from its previous count, and said the death toll had risen by 53 to 150.
The CDC reported its tally of cases of the respiratory illness, Covid-19, caused by a new coronavirus, as of 4pm yesterday, compared with its tally a day earlier.
More than 3,000 of the cases are in the New York state, according to state health departments, including 21 deaths in New York as of 11pm on Wednesday.
“I think the spread of the virus is well in advance of any of these numbers,” Cuomo told MSNBC television. “We did 8,000 overnight, which is one of the largest number I think ever done in the country.
“We haven’t gotten this morning’s tally, but you’re going to see a jump astronomically – I have no doubt – because we did so many tests.”
The real number of cases may be 10 times the number of confirmed positives, or even more, Cuomo said.
As a result, the state may see 110,000 hospitalisations and about 25,000 to 37,000 people needing intensive care unit beds at peak time in five to six weeks, the governor projected.
US health experts fear the country is on a similar trajectory as Italy, the worst-hit European country where the government reported a record 475 deaths on Wednesday alone, and another 427 deaths yesterday, increasing that nation’s death toll to 3,405 according to an AFP tally, surpassing China’s official death toll of 3,245.
US stock markets fell again for the third time this week, signalling that panic-stricken equity investors remained unconvinced that sweeping policy actions would avert a global recession over the coronavirus.
In early trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average the S&P 500 index were down around 2%.
President Donald Trump, who declared a national emergency last week and had stepped up the federal response after initially downplaying the threat, plans to visit Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington, where he will hold a video teleconference with state governors on the coronavirus.
Yesterday Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin urged Congress to move quickly to pass a $1tn economic relief measure by early next week, saying he expects bipartisan support for the bill to get cash payments to Americans during the crisis.
Mnuchin, in an interview on Fox Business Network, said the federal government is focused on being able to provide liquidity to companies and had no problem issuing more debt, but that it expected loans to businesses to be paid back.
Congress is taking up its third legislative package to address the pandemic, which has caused widespread economic disruption.
Lawmakers already have passed a $105bn-plus plan to limit the damage from the outbreak through free testing, paid sick leave and expanded safety-net spending, as well as an $8.3bn measure to combat the spread of the pathogen and develop vaccines.
Trump has signed both into law.
“We’re going to get through this,” Mnuchin said. “This is not the financial crisis that will go on for years.”
US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on the Republican president to speed up mass production of medical and protective equipment using powers under the Defence Production Act, citing shortages in the country.
On Wednesday Trump said he would invoke the decades-old law.
“Right now, shortages of critical medical and personal protective equipment are harming our ability to fight the coronavirus epidemic, endangering frontline workers and making it harder to care for those who fall ill,” Pelosi, a Democrat, said in a statement.
Surgeon-General Jerome Adams, the United States’ top public health official, said yesterday that the virus is affecting people across a wide age range and authorities continue to learn more about it every day.
“Right now there is a not a big fear that the virus is mutating,” Adams told Fox News. “But what we are seeing is the virus is playing out differently in different populations based on their mitigation efforts, based on their access to healthcare and based on who is getting sick.”
Adams stressed that Americans should continue to self-isolate and follow precautionary guidelines.
“It’s about social distancing, it’s about washing your hands. It’s about ensuring that you’re protecting yourself and protecting others. It’s not about partying on beaches during spring break,” Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response co-ordinator, told CBS This Morning.
However, clearly, many Americans were ignoring expert advice.
“Get off the beach,” US Senator Rick Scott of Florida said yesterday as people still gathered on the beaches despite warnings.
While people could walk alone on the beach away from others, “that’s not what’s happening” as college students still congregated during spring break.
If people failed to heed social isolation warnings, government officials might need to act, Scott told CNN in an interview.
“You’ve got to figure out how to get these people off the beach,” he said.

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