Americans have been warned that they are heading into what could be their “toughest” few weeks, with “a lot of death” expected.
The words of President Donald Trump came as the number of COVID-19 cases in the US stood at more than 300,000, with the number dead at 8,100, more than 3,500 of those in the state of New York.
Also, more than 400 people have died in Louisiana and 500 in Michigan.
Coronavirus: The infection numbers in real time
Mr Trump had said he wanted to get the US economy running as normal by Easter – 12 April – but, with the number of virus cases growing exponentially, he did not repeat this during his news conference on Saturday.
Instead, he said: “There will be a lot of death, unfortunately. There will be death.”
But he also said he wanted the virus “vanquished” as quickly as possible, because “we have to get back to work”.
Mr Trump said he wanted restrictions imposed in many states to be eased “sooner rather than later” and that he had been speaking with professional sports leagues about resuming competitions as quickly as possible.
“This country was not designed to be closed,” he said. “The cure cannot be worse than the problem.”
But Dr Anthony Fauci, the US government’s infection disease expert, said social distancing rules were working.
He said: “As sobering and as difficult as this is, what we are doing is making a difference.”
Thousands of military personnel will be deployed to various states to help the fight against the pandemic.
Some 1,000 of these, including military doctors and nurses, will go to New York, the worst-hit state.
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As states scramble for medical equipment, including ventilators that seriously ill COVID-19 patients require to help them breathe, China and Russia are among the countries to have stepped in.
China is arranging a shipment of 1,000 ventilators for New York, while a Russian military plane with more ventilators landed in the city on Wednesday last week.
The Russian aid was arranged after a conversation between Mr Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On Thursday, presidential adviser Jared Kushner had said that the federal government’s medical supplies were not intended to be relied on by the states and Mr Trump has previously made it clear he thinks New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo is exaggerating the number of ventilators required.
He also said on Saturday that the governor had been given “more than anybody has ever been given in a long time” and he wanted to hear a more resounding “thank you”.
Worldwide, the number of COVID-19 cases is heading towards 1.2 million, with more than 64,000 deaths.
However, the number of cases is thought to be misleading, as many countries only test those who are ill enough to be admitted to hospital. Despite the virus’s death toll, most cases cause mild to moderate symptoms and those patients recover within a few weeks.