NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York state recorded more than 500 coronavirus-related deaths in a single day, bringing its total to nearly 3,000, or about the same number killed in the United States in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Friday.
New York City has mere days to prepare for the worst of the novel coronavirus onslaught, said Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose city has suffered more than a quarter of U.S. deaths in the outbreak. He pleaded for federal government help to end a shortage of medical staff and ventilators.
“I think somehow in Washington, there’s an assumption (that) there’s weeks to prepare,” de Blasio said on MSNBC. “There’s not weeks anymore. It is days now.”
The 24-hour death toll was 562, raising the New York state total to 2,935 fatalities, Cuomo said. He called it the “highest single increase in the number of deaths since we started.”
The Sept. 11 attacks killed nearly 3,000 people, most of them at New York City’s World Trade Center.
De Blasio is asking for 1,000 nurses, 150 doctors and 300 respiratory therapists as the number of COVID-19 cases in the city is expected to rise sharply next week.
New York City has yet to receive a resupply for the up to 3,000 ventilators needed by next week, de Blasio said, urging President Donald Trump to mobilize medical personnel from the U.S. military.
“They are not mobilized for action,” de Blasio, a Democrat, told WNYC radio. “The president has to give that order right now.” Trump is a Republican.
More than 25% of the 6,058 U.S. coronavirus deaths tallied by Johns Hopkins University as of Friday morning were in New York City. Infections in the United States totaling 240,000 account for about 24% of the more than 1 million cases worldwide.
Many of the fatal victims were dying alone as medical staff forbade relatives to be with them in their final hours for fear of a further spread of infection.
“There’s really no way to describe what we’re seeing. Our new reality is unreal,” Craig Spencer, the director of global health in emergency medicine at New York’s Columbia University medical center, wrote on Twitter on Thursday night.
He described tents set up outside hospitals to help contain an increasing influx of patients. “In those same tents, I saw too much pain, loneliness, and death. People dying alone.”
In neighboring New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy ordered that all flags be lowered to half-staff for as long as the emergency remains in effect to honor those lost to the coronavirus. He said New Jersey, which has more than 29,000 cases, was the first state to take such a measure.
New York City and state have both complained that federal resources have not reached them quickly enough, but Cuomo said Trump responded swiftly to a request he made on Thursday that a makeshift hospital at a Manhattan convention center be allowed to take in patients with the COVID-19 disease. Initially it was set up to treat all other patients.
“I thank the president for doing it. He did it despite the fact that the federal agencies were not eager to do it, and he did it quickly,” Cuomo said. “It’s a big deal for us.”
New statistics on Friday confirmed that hundreds of thousands of Americans had lost their jobs because of the pandemic, although economists say the real figure is far more than that because huge swaths of the U.S. economy began shutting down last month to avoid spreading the virus.
U.S. employers cut 701,000 jobs last month, ending a record 113 straight months of employment growth, the Labor Department said. In the last two weeks, nearly 10 million workers have filed for jobless benefits.
“What we are watching in real time is the greatest bloodletting in the American labor market since the Great Depression,” said Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at RSM in Austin, Texas.
While the economic pain is spread across the country, New York is bearing the brunt of the grim march of the coronavirus in terms of cases, sickness and death. The virus causes the flu-like respiratory illness COVID-19 for which there is no vaccine.
“It’s very painful. You see your friends and people you work with, they’re getting sick,” Thomas Riley, a nurse in New York City who recovered after testing positive for the coronavirus, told CNN on Friday.
Cuomo said on Thursday his state’s apex – or the worst point – of the crisis would likely be on the “shorter end” of a projected range of seven to 30 days ahead. Most of the state’s coronavirus-related hospitalizations have been in the New York City area.
There are more than 102,863 coronavirus cases in New York state, up from 92,381 a day earlier, Cuomo said.
Anthony Fauci, a physician who is a leading member of Trump’s coronavirus task force, said social distancing is beginning to work even though the United States is still far from over the worst.
Even so, Fauci told Fox News, “it’s going to get worse – much worse – before it gets better…but it will turn around.”
Fauci, who directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Americans should cover their face in public but remain isolated as much as possible, adding that face masks must be reserved for medical personnel battling the highly-infectious disease.
“This is…an addition to the physical separation, not as a substitute,” Fauci said.
On Thursday, the Trump administration appeared ready to join local officials in advising Americans to wear face coverings in public to help curb the spread of the virus.
Reporting by Maria Caspani and Nathan Layne; Additional reporting by Peter Szekely, Lucia Mutikani, Lisa Lambert, Susan Heavey, Steve Holland and Dan Whitcomb; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Frank McGurty and Howard Goller
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