With 20,500 coronavirus deaths, U.S. spends Easter Sunday on lockdown

Lincoln Memorial during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, where normally thousands of Christians would gather for worship at Easter sunrise, in Washington, U.S. April 12, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Lincoln Memorial during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, where normally thousands of Christians would gather for worship at Easter sunrise, in Washington, U.S. April 12, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

With 20,500 coronavirus deaths, U.S. spends Easter Sunday on lockdown

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(Reuters) – Americans spent Sunday on lockdown as the U.S. toll from the novel coronavirus pandemic surpassed 20,500 deaths and more than half a million confirmed cases over the Easter weekend.

With almost all the country under stay-at-home orders to curb the spread of the disease, many turned to online church services to mark the holiest day in the Christian calendar.

“Future generations will look back on this as the long Lent of 2020, a time when disease and death suddenly darkened the whole earth,” Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles wrote to priests and parishioners nationwide, urging them to hold steadfast. “Our churches may be closed but Christ is not quarantined and his Gospel is not in chains.”

The United States has seen its highest death tolls to date from the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus, with roughly 2,000 deaths a day reported for the last four days in a row, the largest number in and around New York City. Even that is viewed as understated, as New York is still figuring out how best to include a surge in deaths at home in its official statistics.

Graphic: Tracking the novel coronavirus in the U.S. –

here

As the death toll has mounted, President Donald Trump mulled over when the country might begin to see a return to normality.

The sweeping restrictions on non-essential movement that were imposed in recent weeks across 42 states have taken a huge toll on commerce and raised questions over how long business closures and travel curbs can be sustained.

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits in the last three weeks surpassed 16 million.

The Trump administration sees May 1 as a target date for relaxing the stay-at-home restrictions, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Stephen Hahn, said on Sunday. But he cautioned that it was still too early to say whether that goal would be met.

“We see light at the end of the tunnel,” Hahn told ABC’s “This Week,” adding, “Public safety and the welfare of the American people has to come first. That has to ultimately drive these decisions”

The top U.S. infectious disease expert said he was cautiously optimistic that some of the country is starting to see a turnaround in the fight against the outbreak.

Dr. Anthony Fauci pointed on Sunday to the New York metropolitan area, which had its highest daily death toll last week alongside a decrease in hospitalizations, intensive care admissions and the need to intubate critically ill patients.

“Once you turn that corner, hopefully you’ll see a very sharp decline and then you can start thinking about how we can keep it that way,” Fauci said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

People wearing protective masks walk past closed shops on the the Coney Island boardwalk during the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., April 11, 2020. Picture taken April 11, 2020.
People wearing protective masks walk past closed shops on the the Coney Island boardwalk during the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., April 11, 2020. Picture taken April 11, 2020.

“If all of a sudden we decide ‘OK, it’s May whatever,’ and we just turn the switch on, that could be a real problem.”

Fauci and other public health experts say widespread testing will be key to efforts to reopen the economy, including antibody tests to find out who has already had the disease and could be safe to return to work.

The FDA’s Hahn said he was concerned that some antibody tests on the market that had not gone through the FDA scientific review process “may not be as accurate as we’d like them to be.”

“I can assure the American people that what we’re doing is using data and science to look at those tests to make sure that they’re valid, they’re accurate and they’re reproducible,” he said.

The Trump administration renewed talk of quickly reopening the economy after an influential university research model cut its U.S. mortality forecasts to 60,000 deaths by Aug. 4, down from at least 100,000, assuming social-distancing measures stay.

However, new government data shows a summer surge in infections if stay-at-home orders are lifted after only 30 days, according to projections first reported by the New York Times and confirmed by a Department of Homeland Security official.

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