The mounting death toll from the virus outbreak in the United States had it poised on Tuesday to overtake China’s grim toll of 3,300 deaths.
The US has the most confirmed cases in the world, a number that is likely to soar when tests for the virus become more widespread.
In New York City, Governor Andrew Cuomo and health officials warned on Monday that the crisis unfolding there is just a preview of what other US communities could soon face.
New York State’s death toll climbed by more than 250 people in a day on Monday to more than 1,200, most of them in the city.
Hospitals in New York City have been overrun with patients suffering from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus. Officials have appealed for volunteer healthcare workers.
People in New York and New Jersey lined both sides of the Hudson River to cheer the US Navy hospital ship, Comfort, a converted oil tanker painted white with giant red crosses, as it sailed past the Statue of Liberty accompanied by support ships and helicopters.
To ease the pressure in New York, construction of a 68-bed field hospital began on Sunday in Manhattan’s Central Park. The white tents being set up evoked a wartime feel in an island of green typically used by New Yorkers to exercise, picnic and enjoy the first signs of spring.
The makeshift facility, provided by the Mount Sinai Health System and non-profit organisation Samaritan’s Purse, is expected to begin accepting patients on Tuesday, New York Major Bill de Blasio said.