NEW YORK (Reuters) – Even as doctors and nurses struggled to rescue an attack of seriously ill coronavirus patients, the number of new COVID-19 hospital admissions seemed to be leveled in New York state, the US pandemic episode, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday.
Both New York and neighboring New Jersey reported their single highest daily loss of life from COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the virus – an astonishing 731 deaths in Cuomo State alone.
New York’s cumulative deaths of 5,489 account for nearly half of the approximately 12,500 coronavirus deaths reported to date across the country.
The United States has registered more than 390,000 known infections, just over a third of them in the state of New York.
But Cuomo said the rising number of deaths, although unfortunate, was a “drag indicator”
Instead, he pointed to lowering the number of coronavirus, intensive care, and ventilator intubations as preliminary evidence that social distance measures introduced last month were working to stave off the outbreak.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, whose state saw coronavirus deaths jump by 232 to a total of 1,232 in 24 hours, made a similar note of cautious optimism, but added: “We know we’re not out in the woods yet, we’re not close to it. ”
The messages from political leaders in some coronavirus hot spots around the country seemed calibrated to convey a sense of hope while urging the public to strictly follow orders at home imposed by governors in 42 states.
“Let’s not be complacent,” Cuomo said at a news conference. “Social distance works. … That’s why you see the numbers come down. ”
Across the country, California Governor Gavin Newsom said the infection curve in his condition – the first to carry home-home orders – was “bending but it also extends,” with the outbreak of virus expected to peak in mid-to-late May.
“The curve continues to rise, but now it’s slower,” he told a newsletter.
In another glimpse of good news, US surgeon Jerome Adams said on Tuesday that the pandemic could kill fewer Americans than the 100,000 to 240,000 range previously estimated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The latest research model from the University of Washington – one of several cited by leading health authorities – has predicted US deaths in coronavirus at a total of less than 82.00 by August 4.
Adams, who is black, acknowledged early evidence showing that African Americans were more likely to die of COVID-19 and highlighted long-standing differences in health and inequalities in access to medical care.
Public health steps to curb the pandemic have hampered the US economy, with many companies closing or scaling back as unemployment rises.
Nearly 95% of Americans follow government directives to stay indoors in addition to necessary activities. Eight of the 50 states – Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming – have not yet introduced such orders.
Cuomo said it was time to start planning for a possible restart of the economy and spoke to governors in New Jersey and Connecticut about it, but added that it was still too early to relax social distance measures.
One day after President Donald Trump said the economy could open “sooner than people think,” Murphy moved to pinch further, saying he would order all state and county parks closed in New Jersey.
“We have seen too many cases where people gather in groups in our parks mistakenly thinking that because they are outside of social distancing doesn’t matter,” Murphy said.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose city is the center of the state’s outbreak, said it was too early to explain that a corner had turned but cited some encouraging developments.
“The number of people who show up at our hospitals in need of a ventilator – that situation has improved a little in recent days,” he said.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot told a news briefing that the third most populous American city had gone from coronavirus cases that doubled every two to two days to doubled every nine to ten days.
“It’s obviously progress,” Lightfoot said. “But we’re not close to the top so I don’t want to raise false expectations that it will someday soon based on the modeling we’ve seen.”
Reporting by Maria Caspani in New York and Doina Chiacu in Washington. Additional reports from Sharon Bernstein of Sacramento, Susan Heavey, Lisa Shumaker, Peter Szekely, Daniel Trotta, Jan Wolfe, Stephanie Kelly, Makini Brice, Brendan O’Brien and Idrees Ali; Writing by Will Dunham and Steve Gorman; Editing by Howard Goller