Florida police say a pastor deemed his megachurch an essential business, held Sunday services with hundreds of people.
New York’s governor put out an urgent plea for medical volunteers, and a Navy hospital ship pulled into port as coronavirus deaths in the city mounted and hospitals buckled in what authorities say could be a preview of what other communities across the United States could soon face.
“Please come help us in New York now. We need relief,” Governor Andrew Cuomo pleaded as the number of dead in New York State climbed past 1,200, with most of those victims dying in New York City.
“Whether it’s Detroit, it’s New Orleans, it will work its way across the country,” Cuomo added.
Elsewhere around the world, hard-hit Italy and Spain saw their death tolls climb by more than 800 each even as the World Health Organization’s emergency chief said cases in the two countries are “potentially stabilising.” At the same time, he warned this is no time to let up on tough containment measures.
A US Navy hospital ship with 1,000 beds arrived in port in New York on Monday to help relieve the crisis gripping the city. The USNS Comfort – also sent to New York City after 9/11 – will be used to treat non-coronavirus patients while packed hospitals deal with those with COVID-19.
Nurses and other medical professionals who have volunteered to help have also begun arriving.
“Anyone who says this situation is a New York City-only situation is in a state of denial. You see this virus move across the state, you see this virus move across the nation. There is no American who is immune to this virus,” Cuomo said.
As he announced the latest death toll, he said, “That’s a lot of loss, that’s a lot of pain, that’s a lot of tears, that’s a lot of grief that people all across this state are feeling.”
Criticising President Donald Trump’s politicising of the crisis, Cuomo told MSNBC earlier on Monday: “The science people, the government professionals, have to stand up and look the president in the eye and say this is not a political exercise. This is not press relations. It’s not optics. The tsunami is coming.”
Three-quarters of a million people around the world have become infected, and more than 35,000 have died, according to a running count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
The US reported over 140,000 infections and more than 2,500 deaths, with New York City the nation’s worst hot spot.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the US government’s top infectious-disease expert, warned that smaller cities are about to see cases “take off” the way they have in New York City.
“What we’ve learned from painful experience with this outbreak is that it goes along almost on a straight line, then a little acceleration, acceleration, then it goes way up,” he said on ABC’s Good Morning America programme.
New hotspots of the disease have started to surface in Florida, Michigan and Louisiana, as state officials seek more help in fighting the outbreak.
Fauci told CNN on Sunday that the pandemic could ultimately kill between 100,000 and 200,000 people in the US if mitigation is unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Monday that the number of COVID-19 hospitalisations in the state had doubled over the past four days, while the number of ICU patients tripled.
He did not immediately give figures for those totals.
Last week, the US Congress passed a $2.2 trillion emergency relief bill, promising billions to US states.
Trump said on Sunday that he would extend the guidelines aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus to April 30, from his original target of Easter on April 12.
Americans are now being called on to prepare for another 30 days of severe economic and social disruption, as schools and businesses are closed, and public life is upended. One in three Americans remains under state or local government orders to stay at home to slow the spread of the virus.