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'You can't relax': Vigilance urged as New York sees signs of coronavirus progress

CoronavirusApr 09, 2020 05:55PM ET
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3/3 © Reuters. Outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Miami Beach 2/3

By Maria Caspani

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Americans must resist the temptation to backslide on social distancing now that signs of progress have emerged in the battle against the coronavirus outbreak, U.S. medical and state officials said on Thursday.

The calls for vigilance came as New York offered fresh evidence that the arc of the disease caused by the virus was flattening in the state, the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic.

The number of patients newly admitted to a hospital in New York dropped for a second day, to 200. Governor Andrew Cuomo said it was a sign that social distancing was working, even though the number of deaths in the state increased to 799 on Wednesday, a record high for a third day.

"You can’t relax. The flattening of the curve last night happened because of what we did yesterday," Cuomo said, referring to the shape of graphs tracking new cases.

The apparent progress in efforts to stop the spread of the virus have been reflected in fresh projections that scale down the nationwide death toll down to 60,000 from more than 100,000.

New York has now recorded more than 7,000 deaths from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, or nearly half of the total across the country. More than 450,000 U.S. residents had tested positive for the virus.

Anthony Fauci, the nation's top U.S. infectious disease expert, said it was important that people continue to stay home.

"We've got to continue to redouble our efforts at the mitigation of physical separation in order to keep those numbers down and hopefully even get them lower than what you've heard recently," Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CBS "This Morning."

A University of Washington model often cited by U.S. and state officials projects that COVID-19 will claim 60,415 American lives by Aug. 4, with the peak coming on Easter Sunday this weekend.

Cuomo likened the crisis to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which killed almost 3,000 people, most of them at the World Trade Center in New York, and called it a "silent explosion."

"9/11 was so devastating, so tragic and then in many ways we lose so many more New Yorkers to this silent killer," he said. "It was a silent explosion that just ripples through society with the same randomness, the same evil that we saw on 9/11."

Stay-at-home orders that have closed non-essential workplaces in 42 states have drastically slowed the once-humming U.S. economy and thrown millions of people out of work.

State unemployment insurance offices have been deluged in the last three weeks as 16.8 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits, with weekly new claims topping 6 million for the second straight time last week.

"In its first month alone, the coronavirus crisis is poised to exceed any comparison to the Great Recession," said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at Glassdoor, a website recruitment firm, referring to 2008-9.

LOOK FINE, FEEL FINE

Small businesses and workers, particularly in the service industries, have been bearing the brunt of the devastating effect on the economy of the pandemic lockdown measures.

Outside Grand Rapids, Michigan, 22-year-old Jocelyn Ockerse, recently lost her job as a hairdresser while her husband, a drivers' education instructor, also is out of work. Neither has been approved for unemployment benefits.

"We are struggling mentally and financially but if further restrictions slow this thing down and help save lives, then I’m all for it,” Ockerse told Reuters through Twitter messages.

The virus has turned the work of those who are still employed, like 35-year-old driver Excelso Sabulao, into hazardous occupations, where the risk of getting infected looms with every food pick-up and delivery he makes.

"I'm just putting my faith in God that, you know, somehow, while doing this, I'm gonna be spared from getting infected by this because, you know, I can't afford it," said Sabulao, who uses his own car to deliver for Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) in Dublin, California, east of San Francisco Bay.

In the latest unprecedented effort to support the economy, the U.S. Federal Reserve on Thursday announced a $2.3 trillion effort to keep local governments and small and mid-sized businesses afloat until the recovery begins.

Fed chairman Jerome Powell warned that any re-opening of the economy should not be rushed, however.

Officials serving on Trump's economic team were more bullish.

Asked on CNBC whether he believed the U.S. economy could be reopened as soon as next month, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday, "I do." As soon as Trump "feels comfortable with the medical issues," he said.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said in an interview on Fox Business News the economy should be able to reopen "on a rolling basis" over the next month or two.

'You can't relax': Vigilance urged as New York sees signs of coronavirus progress
 

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