Deaths from the coronavirus topped 1,000 in New York City as officials warned that the worst of the virus’s toll is yet to come.
The city’s Health Department reported late Tuesday that nearly 1,100 people have died of the virus in the city. More than 1,500 deaths from COVID-19 have been recorded across New York state.
The development came just over five days after the United States as a whole recorded over 1,000 deaths. The figure nationwide was poised to climb to over 4,000 on Wednesday.
Data released by the city shows Brooklyn and Queens have the most cases in number among the five boroughs of the city, though on a per capita basis the Bronx has seen the most deaths.
The city’s ambulance system and police department are under increasing stress from the pandemic, with nearly a quarter of the city’s emergency medical service workers out sick, according to the Fire Department. In all, 2,800 members of the Fire Department are sidelined, including about 950 of the city’s 4,300 EMS workers.
Nearly 16 per cent of the New York Police Department’s uniformed force is now out sick. More than 1,000 officers have tested positive for the virus.
Authorities are racing to build temporary hospitals in locations including Central Park, the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, a cruise ship terminal and a sports complex to handle an expected surge in patients.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday played down concerns from New York’s Andrew Cuomo and other governors that their states’ hospitals don’t have enough ventilators to treat an anticipated crush of patients. Trump said the federal government currently has a stockpile of 10,000 ventilators that it plans to distribute as needed.
“Now, when the surge occurs, if it occurs fairly evenly, we’ll be able to distribute them very quickly before they need them,” Trump said. “But we want to have a reserve right now. It’s like having oil reserves.”
While New York and a few other hot spots have garnered most of the attention, Trump warned Americans on Tuesday to brace for a “hell of a bad two weeks” ahead as the White House projected there could be 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the U.S. from the coronavirus pandemic even if current physical distancing guidelines are maintained.
Heeding guidelines ‘matter of life and death,’ Trump says
Public health officials stressed Tuesday that the number could be less if people across the country bear down on keeping their distance from one another.
“We really believe we can do a lot better than that,” said Dr. Deborah Birx, the co-ordinator of the White House coronavirus task force. That would require all Americans to take seriously their role in preventing the spread of disease, she said.
Said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert: “This is a number that we need to anticipate, but we don’t necessarily have to accept it as being inevitable.”
Trump called it “a matter of life and death” for Americans to heed his administration’s guidelines and predicted the country would soon see a “light at the end of the tunnel” in a pandemic that in the United States has infected about 190,000 people, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
“This is going to be one of the roughest two or three weeks we’ve ever had in our country,” Trump said. “We’re going to lose thousands of people.”
WATCH l Trump now warns of ‘vicious’ virus:
The jaw-dropping projections were laid out during a grim, two-hour White House briefing.
“We are continuing to see things go up,” Fauci said. “We cannot be discouraged by that because the mitigation is actually working and will work.”
It’s not only physical distancing that could make a difference but also the frantic efforts by hospitals around the country to prepare for an onslaught of seriously ill patients. The better prepared hospitals are, the greater the chances of lives being saved.
On Wednesday, Dr. Jerome Adams, the surgeon general, said that some areas of the country would likely need to maintain those restrictions into May. “Well, it will be for some places, it won’t be for others, depending on where they are on their curve,” he told ABC’s Good Morning America.
Birx said the experiences of Washington state and California give her hope that other states can keep the coronavirus under control through physical distancing. That’s because they moved quickly to contain the early clusters of cases by closing schools, urging people to work from home, banning large gatherings and taking other measures now familiar to most Americans, she noted.
“I am reassured by looking at the Seattle line,” she added. “California and Washington state reacted very early to this.” Many other states and local governments already have stiff controls in place on mobility and gatherings.
The virus, which causes the disease COVID-19, leads to mild symptoms in many of those infected, but it can cause severe symptoms or death for some, including older adults and those with underlying medical conditions such as respiratory ailments.