By Lisa Shumaker
(Reuters) – U.S. coronavirus cases topped 500,000 on Friday, according to a Reuters tally, although there are signs that Americans staying home was helping to curb new infections.
Confirmed U.S. cases of the COVID-19 illness caused by the virus have been rising by 30,000 to 35,000 cases a day as testing becomes more available. Globally, there have been over 1.6 million confirmed cases, with the death toll topping 100,000 on Friday.
U.S. deaths topped 18,600 on Friday as officials warned that fatalities would likely peak this week as then decline as there was evidence that the number of new infections was flattening in New York state, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak. (Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/2w7hX9T)
With many Americans celebrating the Easter holiday on Sunday, the top U.S. infectious disease expert warned that it is too early to relax restrictions on Americans.
“Now is no time to back off,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said.
The social distancing guidelines have taken a toll on the U.S. economy. Some economists are forecasting job losses of up to 20 million in April, raising questions about how long business closures and travel restrictions can be sustained. The Trump administration’s top economic officials said on Thursday they believe the U.S. economy could start to reopen for normal business in May.
Only Italy has more coronavirus deaths than the United States, with 18,849 fatalities reported on Friday, although it has a much smaller population. After a marked reduction from previous peaks, new infections have picked up in the past two days, frustrating hopes that the illness was in clear retreat.
(Writing by Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Bill Berkrot)