President Donald Trump has warned that the US will reach a “horrific point” in terms of death rates as one of the country’s top doctors said the nation should brace for levels of tragedy reminiscent of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attacks.
The US leader showed glimmers of optimism at a coronavirus briefing in the White House on Sunday, saying that the US was seeing a “levelling-off” of the crisis in some of the nation’s hotspots for the outbreak.
However, he said the US will reach a “horrific point” in terms of deaths recorded on a daily basis, asserting that projections of total fatalities related to the infection “may be on the high side”.
“We will reach a horrific point in terms of deaths from coronavirus, but from that point, things will start to change. We are very close to that level,” Mr Trump said.
The number of cases across the US climbed to at least 331,151 on Sunday with around 9,441 fatalities, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
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Mr Trump began Sunday’s briefing by addressing Boris Johnson’s hospitalisation for precautionary tests after suffering persistent COVID-19 symptoms, including a high temperature, 10 days after he tested positive for the highly contagious respiratory infection.
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Mr Trump said he was “hopeful” that the UK prime minister would recover, adding that Mr Johnson is a “strong man”.
Mr Trump said the US had tested and received results for around 1.67 million Americans for COVID-19, and that the drop in the number of deaths in New York could be a good sign.
“That’s far more than any country’s been able to do,” he said.
He later said: “We see light at the end of the tunnel. Things are happening, things are happening.
“We are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel and hopefully in the not too distant future, we’ll be very proud of the job we all did”.
On Sunday, hardest-hit state New York reported deaths had fallen slightly from the day before in the first time for a week, but there were still nearly 600 new fatalities and more than 7,300 cases.
“Maybe that’s a good sign”, Mr Trump told reporters, referring to the decline in fatalities.
He said the federal government will deliver 600,000 N95 respirator masks to New York City on Monday, as well as an additional 200,000 masks to Suffolk County in New York.
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Mr Trump also revealed that the US has tested and received results for 1.67 million Americans and that the US government had purchased a “tremendous amount” of hydroxychloroquine – an anti-malaria medication – after some very strong signs it helps combat coronavirus infections.
He added that the use of erythromycin to treat coronavirus should be looked at very closely.
It comes as US top doctor Surgeon General Jerome Adams warned on Sunday that the nation would be hit by the hardest and saddest week of their lives because of coronavirus.
Offering a stark warning about the expected wave of virus deaths, he told CNN: “This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives, quite frankly.
“This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment, only it’s not going to be localised. It’s going to be happening all over the country. And I want America to understand that.”
And despite New York’s slight drop in deaths, intensive care admissions and the number of patients needing breathing tubes, Governor Andrew Cuomo warned that it was too early to tell the significance of those numbers.
US set to enter a defining week in its history
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 outlook during his news conferences this weekend.
On Saturday, he warned that Americans were heading into what could be their “toughest” few weeks, with “a lot of death“expected.