US coronavirus cases topped 200,000 on Wednesday, doubling in less than a week, and deaths passed 5,000 as the nation’s top public health officials predicted grim weeks ahead in the battle against the outbreak.
The US death toll from the coronavirus pandemic topped 5,000 late on Wednesday, according to a running tally from Johns Hopkins University.
By 0235 GMT yesterday, 5,116 people had died, the tally showed, on the same day the United States set a one-day record of 884 people killed in 24 hours.
The US death toll is lower than those of Italy and Spain but above the 3,316 recorded for China, where the pandemic first emerged in December.
According to Johns Hopkins, the US leads the world in number of cases of new coronavirus, with 215,417.
Meanwhile, Democrats in Washington are starting to push for a fourth economic stimulus package aimed at massive infrastructure projects.
Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, said on Wednesday that she wants lawmakers to pursue the stimulus package, focusing on infrastructure projects, once Congress is back in session on April 20.
However, Republicans have demurred on the subject.
Pelosi said yesterday that she will form a bipartisan select committee on the coronavirus crisis to oversee the spending of $2.3tn that Congress has approved to respond to the pandemic.
In a conference call with reporters, the Democratic House leader also said she believed the administration of Republican President Donald Trump was “more inclined to be supportive” than Senate Republican leaders of her push for infrastructure spending as part of a fourth major bill in response to the coronavirus crisis.
Congressional Democrats and the Trump administration have been clashing over how to implement the massive coronavirus rescue bill – the largest financial relief bill in US history.
When he signed the bill, Trump questioned whether he had to adhere to restrictions on his powers included in it.
Pelosi said lawmakers must ensure aid already approved gets to those who need it most, and a committee was needed to ensure fund “are spent wisely and effectively”.
The top House Republican, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, raised several objections to the idea of a select committee, including that it could not be created without a vote and Congress is out until April 20.
“It raises questions to me, what the Speaker is trying to do with that,” McCarthy told reporters on a conference call.
McCarthy said there is already oversight from congressional committees and the new coronavirus laws.
Pelosi, whose party has enough votes in the House to create a select committee if it wants, said she also favoured an “after action review” later to examine the handling of the pandemic, but the select committee will be for the “here and now”.
It will have subpoena power, she said. “We want to make sure there are not exploiters out there ... where there is money there is also frequently mischief.”
Pelosi said she spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Wednesday about tax matters, but “they know that I want to go forward” on infrastructure spending.
“Whatever communication we need to move forward, that will be happening, whether I talk to the president or not,” said Pelosi, who has a strained relationship with Trump.
McCarthy said he was open to more infrastructure spending, but wanted to focus on implementing coronavirus-related legislation already passed before embarking on more.
Democrats have outlined a $760bn, five-year infrastructure bill that would fund road repairs, water system improvements, broadband and other projects.
They also want $10bn for community health centres.
The country is gearing up to battle the pandemic, with Trump predicting a “very, very painful” two weeks ahead.
The White House has said that the death toll could rise to as many as 240,000 US deaths.
In a sign that some holdouts are taking the virus more seriously,
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Wednesday announced a state-wide stay at home order, taking effect yesterday evening.
DeSantis was facing mounting criticism that he was not taking enough measures to curb the outbreak, and on Wednesday he said Trump had influenced his decision.
Trump has refrained from issuing a nation-wide stay-at-home order, saying that some states “don’t have much of a problem” during a press briefing on Wednesday.
The president also acknowledged that the federal stockpile of personal protective equipment is empty, as states scramble to assemble the necessary protective gear to fight the pandemic.
In New York, the epicentre of the current outbreak, Governor Andrew Cuomo said some 16,000 people could die there, citing projections.
Cuomo warned other regions: “Look at us today, see yourself tomorrow.”
New York’s death toll has reached 1,941, accounting for nearly half of fatalities nationwide, Cuomo said.
There are at least 83,712 confirmed coronavirus cases in the state.
“That number will continue to go up,” he said, predicting that the local outbreak would hit its apex “roughly at the end of April”.
He said at the peak, New York will need 110,000 hospital beds and 37,000 ventilators, but that the federal government has only sent 4,000 units of the breathing equipment.
Cuomo also announced New York City playgrounds will be shut down as social distancing guidelines are still not being followed closely enough, especially by young people.
“Who else has to die for you to understand you have a responsibility?” Cuomo said.
On a personal note, Cuomo said he was “frightened” for his brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, who tested positive for the coronavirus.
“I couldn’t protect my own brother,” an emotional governor said, adding that “anyone can get this disease”.
It only took a month for coronavirus to become the third-leading cause of death in the United States, according to a San Diego doctor and data from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Covid-19 is now killing 748 people per day in the US, Dr Maria Danilychev said, citing data from Worldometers.info.
Only heart disease (1,774 deaths per day) and cancer (1,641 deaths per day) are killing more people daily than coronavirus, CDC data shows.
Danilychev, a San Diego doctor, made the conclusion and charted coronavirus’ growth throughout the country.
Coronavirus has surpassed Alzheimer’s, stroke, chronic lung disease and accidents in deaths per day, her data shows.
The CDC’s 2017 data shows more than 647,000 people die from heart disease each year and another 599,000 die from cancer.
Accidents, which previously were the No 3 cause of death, account for 169,000 deaths annually, according to the CDC.
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