US coronavirus death toll passes 20,000

The United States has surpassed Italy for the highest number of coronavirus-related deaths in the world, reporting 20,071 fatalities according to a Johns Hopkins University tally on Saturday.
The grim milestone was reached as the country reported more than 500,000 cases and President Donald Trump mulled over when the country may see a return to normality.

The pandemic’s centre of gravity has long since shifted from China, where the first cases were reported in December, to Europe and the US, which now has by far the largest number of confirmed cases.

Over the past week, the number of new deaths each day has been about three times higher on average in the US than in Italy. Deaths have risen more than 9,000 for the week in the US compared with fewer than 3,000 in Italy. The European nation on Saturday reported 619 new fatalities linked to COVID-19, bringing its death toll to 19,468.

About half the deaths in the US were in the New York metropolitan area. Speaking to reporters on Saturday, New York governor Andrew Cuomo said that 783 deaths were recorded in the state on Friday, bringing the total death toll in the state to 8,627. However, Cuomo also said that the rate of hospitalisations and intensive care admissions in the state continue to slow down.

But with authorities warning that the crisis in New York is far from over, the city’s mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Saturday that public schools in the city would remain closed until September.

“There is nothing easy about this decision,” the mayor said at a news conference. “It clearly will help us save lives … It’s the right decision,” de Blasio added.

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The closing affects 1.1 million students in what is by far the country’s largest public school district.

Fears about the spread of the virus into the nation’s heartland are mounting as well. Twenty-four residents of an Indiana nursing home hit by COVID-19have died. Chicago’s Cook County has set up a temporary morgue that can take more than 2,000 bodies. And Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been going around telling groups of people to “break it up.”

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