The United States (US) surpassed Italy on Saturday as the country with the highest reported coronavirus death toll, recording more than 20 000 deaths since the outbreak began, according to a Reuters tally.
The grim milestone was reached as President Donald Trump mulled over when the country, which has registered more than half a million infections, might begin to see a return to normality.
The US has seen its highest death tolls to date in the epidemic with roughly 2000 deaths a day reported for the last four days in a row, a plurality of them in and around New York City.
Even that is viewed as an understatement, as New York is still figuring out how best to include a surge in deaths at home in its official statistics.
Public health experts have warned that the US death toll could reach 200 000 over the summer if unprecedented stay-at-home orders that have closed businesses and kept most Americans indoors are lifted after 30 days.
Most of the present restrictions on public life, however, including school closures and emergency orders keeping non-essential workers largely confined to their homes, flow from powers vested in state governors, not the president.
Nonetheless, Trump has said he wants life to return to normal as soon as possible and that the measures aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus carry their own economic and public-health cost.
In New York on Saturday, the state’s governor and New York City’s mayor engaged in a fresh squabble over their efforts to combat the virus in what is now the global epicenter, in this instance over how long schools might stay closed.
In this video , Donald Trump acknowledges racial disparities in US COVID-19 death:
The state was sometimes slower to impose social-distancing restrictions than other jurisdictions, notably in California, while New York’s two most powerful officials, both Democrats, sometimes disagreed with each other over matters of jurisdiction and the best terminology to use for certain measures.