By Lisa Shumaker
(Reuters) – U.S. deaths due to coronavirus topped 16,400 on Thursday, according to a Reuters tally, although there are signs the outbreak might be nearing a peak.
U.S. officials warned Americans to expect alarming numbers of coronavirus deaths this week, even as there was evidence that the number of new infections was flattening in New York state, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak.
But 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.
U.S. deaths, the second highest in the world, set new daily records on Tuesday and Wednesday with over 1,900 new deaths reported each day, according to a Reuters tally. U.S. deaths were up over 1,600 on Thursday with several states yet to report their latest figures. (Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/2w7hX9T)
U.S. cases topped 459,000 on Thursday, up 27,000 from the prior day.
Only Italy has more deaths with 18,279 fatalities reported, although it has a much smaller population that the United States. 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.
The Italian government is planning to extend its lockdown to contain the country’s COVID-19 outbreak until May 3, two trade union sources told Reuters on Thursday after meeting ministers.
Spain’s prime minister warned on Thursday that nationwide confinement would likely last until May even though he said the worst should soon be over as the death toll slowed from one of the world’s most devastating coronavirus’ outbreaks. Spain reported 15,238 deaths, the third highest in the world.
Italy imposed a nationwide lockdown on March 9 to slow the spread of the virus and Spain followed on March 14. New York state required all residents to stay home except for essential businesses on March 20 and now more than 94% of Americans are under similar orders but the United States has resisted a national stay-at-home order.
(Writing by Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Alistair Bell)