Coronavirus is spreading “like a bullet train” through New York, the state’s governor has said as he warned of dire consequences unless emergency medical equipment arrives soon.
The state has recorded at least 210 deaths, or one third of the US total, and has more than 25,000 confirmed coronavirus cases.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday: “One of the forecasters said to me: ‘We were looking at a freight train coming across the country.’
“We’re now looking at a bullet train. The apex is higher than we thought and the apex is sooner than we thought.”
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Some 2,000 ventilators have been shipped to New York and 2,000 more will be sent on Wednesday, US vice president Mike Pence said.
But Mr Cuomo said they needed 30,000 and demanded that President Donald Trump use wartime authority to force manufacturers to produce them.
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Mr Trump has invoked the Korean War-era Defence Production Act to deter hoarding, but has been reluctant to use it to force businesses to manufacture essential supplies.
Everyone leaving New York City should self-quarantine for 14 days, the woman in charge of the US response to the pandemic has said.
Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus coordinator, said people leaving the area might not be sick, but could have been exposed to the virus.
Ms Birx told a White House briefing “about 56% of all the cases in the United States are coming out of that metro area, and 60% of all the new cases are coming out of the metro New York area and 31% of the people succumbing to this disease.”
Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who is advising Mr Trump on the pandemic, said about one per 1,000 people leaving New York are infected.
That, he said, is eight to 10 times more than in other areas.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday the US has the potential to become the new epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic.
The warnings come as Mr Trump said he hoped to have the country “opened up and just raring to go” by Easter (12 April), but later said “our decision will be based on hard facts and data”.
New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, said he respectfully disagreed with the president and that “we are looking at months.
“April will unquestionably be worse than March. And right now, my fear is that May could be worse than April.
“That’s the reality we’re facing. I think the notion that we could be, quote unquote, back to normal in the month of April is absolutely inconceivable at this point.”
Overnight, the White House reached agreement with US senate leaders to pump $2trn (£1.7trn) into the US economy in an unprecedented aid package.
The money will go to help businesses, workers and the country’s healthcare system.