More than 200 deaths from Covid-19 were reported Wednesday in the United States – a new high for fatalities recorded in a single day.
The dramatic spike brought the number of novel coronavirus deaths since the outbreak reached the United States in late January to at least 928. Sunday morning – less than four days ago – the nationwide total was 326 deaths, according to CNN data derived from state reports.
Officials reported 223 deaths Wednesday, an increase higher than any other day. Tuesday saw 164 reports. Experts have said numbers will rise dramatically as more tests are administered and analyzed.
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At the White House coronavirus task force news conference, President Donald Trump said: “The more aggressively we commit to social distancing … the more lives we can save.”
More than 65,000 people in the United States have now had a positive test for the novel coronavirus.
Faced with many new cases, leaders make exceptions to rules
With the number of positive coronavirus tests increasing sharply each day, states and local communities are having to break or bend the rules to increase the resources to fight the deadly disease.
In Texas, for instance, the state will allow medical facilities that are awaiting their licenses or those that have closed in the past 36 months to come online.
“By waiving these rules, we can quickly bring many of these facilities online to help Texas communities maximize their hospital capacity and provide care to Texans in need,” Gov. Greg Abbott said.
There have been almost 1,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Texas and 12 deaths.
Abbott said the hospitals coming online will be administered by medical centers that have licenses. One rule being temporarily waived is the need for a facility to have a fire marshal’s report to get a license.
The measures put into effect by governments also include releasing people in jail early.
At least 200 detainees will be released by Wednesday night from jails across New York City if the people don’t pose a threat to the public, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal told reporters Monday the state will initiate a process by which low-level offenders will be released from jail due to Covid-19 concerns.
This continues a trend that began last week.
Medical students answering the call early
Another way officials have been dealing with the crisis has been to call upon retired health care workers to return to hospitals.
And at New York University, the Grossman School of Medicine has sought students who want to graduate early in response to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “directive to get more physicians into the health system more quickly,” the school said in a statement.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 69 students had volunteered.
The school still needs the plan to be approved by state and education officials.
Health official: US doesn’t have to become epicenter
There’s still time to stop the United States from becoming the next epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, a World Health Organization spokeswoman told CNN.
“The potential is there, but you’ve still got time to turn it around,” WHO’s Margaret Harris said.
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Though the number of cases and deaths continues to grow in the United States, it’s possible to reverse the trajectory, she said.
“You’ve got the best public health brains in the world,” Harris said. “You’ve got people who can harness technology brilliantly. You’ve got people who can really think out of the box.”
The formula for success is testing people, finding each case, identifying people who have come into contact with those who have been infected, isolating those who are ill or who have been exposed and quarantining, she said.
“Finally, getting the people who are ill to treatment – and when you do that, really, really protect your health workers,” she said.
Harris previously said the United States had the potential to be the next epicenter based on the “very large acceleration” in its number of cases.
‘We have overwhelmed our stocks’
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who issued a stay-at-home order last week, said it’s likely the measure will remain in place over the next two or three months.
“I think April for California would be sooner than any of the experts that I talked to would believe is possible,” he said.
The state reported a teenager may have died from coronavirus Tuesday. While the Los Angeles County Public Health Department said there may be another explanation, the teen could be the first juvenile to die from Covid-19 in the United States.
A 12-year-old in Atlanta, meanwhile, is showing improvement after her family said Sunday she was fighting for her life. Wednesday, she was coming out of sedation and “responding well” to her parents, cousin Justin Anthony said.
In Louisiana, which Gov. John Bel Edwards said is experiencing the fastest growth rate of cases in the world, residents have been ordered to stay home until April 12.
“We have overwhelmed our stocks of key resources needed for our hospitals, first responders and emergency managers. There will be a long-lasting impact on the state of Louisiana,” he said.
Trump on Tuesday approved Edwards’ request for a major disaster declaration, which will provide more federal aid for the state, where two parishes – Jefferson and Orleans, in metro New Orleans – are among the hardest-hit in the country.
US studies Italy’s path
As more states implement stay-at-home orders, Trump isn’t planning on a nationwide quarantine, he said.
Social distancing guidelines set forth by the federal government this month will expire next week. Among other guidelines, the “15-day pause” urges Americans to avoid public gatherings with more than 10 people.
Trump foresees a rapid recovery and “packed churches all over our country” on Easter, he told Fox News on Tuesday.
“I’m not sure that’s going to be the day, but I will love to aim it right at Easter Sunday,” he said.
The US has turned to Italy to understand how social distancing measures can help slow the virus’ spread, a health official said Tuesday.
“We’re looking very closely around the world, specifically Italy right now, because they are reaching their two weeks of clear social distancing – and looking at the impact, we are seeing the number of deaths starting to decline,” Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said on the “Today” show on NBC.
‘This is your future’
New York’s surge in cases should serve as a warning for the rest of the country, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
“Where we are today, you will be in three weeks or four weeks or five weeks or six weeks,” he said. “What we do here will chart the course.”
New York has a tally of more than 30,000 cases, several times that of any other state, and the majority of the state’s cases are in New York City. Cuomo said 12% of New Yorkers who have tested positive are in the hospital and 3% of those people are in intensive care.
Cuomo attributed the high numbers to international tourism and the fact that New Yorkers live and work in close proximity to each other.
Anyone who has left New York over the past few days should self-quarantine, Birx said.
The state and city are making appeals to the federal government for more medical supplies.
New York’s hospitals have enough personal protection equipment for only the next two weeks, Cuomo said. The state also needs about 30,000 ventilators. As of noon Wednesday, the state had 4,000 ventilators in hospitals, had 4,000 more on the way from the federal government, had purchased another 7,000 and is “still shopping,” the governor said.
The ventilators are the “difference between life and death for thousands of New Yorkers,” de Blasio said.
In addition, the state needs another 140,000 beds and 40,000 intensive care beds, on top of the roughly 53,000 beds it already has, Cuomo has said.
CNN’s Marina Carver, Nicole Chavez, Jacqueline Howard, Chuck Johnston, Sheena Jones, Elizabeth Joseph, Amara Walker and Amanda Watts contributed to this report.