WASHINGTON: Coronavirus infections in the United States rang alarm bells across the globe on Wednesday, trapping almost 20,000 patients in a day to reach 203,608 while the death toll went up to 4,476.
This happened hours after President Donald Trump urged his nation to brace itself for “very painful two weeks” ahead and his White House task force predicted that the deadly respiratory disease could kill between 100,000 and 240,000 in America this year.
The Washington-based Johns Hopkins Resource Center for Coronavirus, which posted the latest statistics on its site, reported more than 800 deaths on Tuesday.
The media reported that the virus had already killed more Americans than died on Sept 11, 2011, and the projected death toll could well surpass total US deaths in Vietnam.
According to some media reports, President Trump will soon issue a guideline asking all Americans to wear face masks in public.
Earlier on Wednesday, President Trump posted links to another guideline on his Twitter page, saying: “If you are sick, stay at home. If your children are sick, keep them at home. If you are an older person, stay at home. If you are a person with a serious underlying health condition, stay at home and away from other people.”
Streets in all major cities looked even more deserted than before as the gravity of the Covid-19 outbreak sank in. People appeared reluctant even to go out to buy food. Most stores were offering free delivery and reduced the prices of essential items, such as food and medicines.
The fear has forced daily wage-earners to stay at home. At a Tuesday afternoon news briefing at the White House, President Trump projected that the death toll in America could go beyond 100,000 even if current preventive measures remained in effect.
But the White House task force, which leads the fight against this deadly respiratory disease, revised these statistics and warned that up to 240,000 people could die from the virus if preventive measures did not work.
The news briefing was a sobering acknowledgement from a President who spent weeks downplaying the severity of the virus and questioned its potential impact.
“I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead. We’re going to go through a very tough two weeks,” he said.
President Trump also urged the nation to observer another 30 days of social distancing. Opinion polls conducted soon after the briefing showed most Americans believed social distancing was necessary to avert disaster.
Later, Dr Anthony Fauci, a member of the task force, asked Americans not to lose heart. “As sobering a number as that is, we should be prepared for it,” he told reporters. “We’re going to do everything we can to get it significantly below that.”
President Trump, however, urged his nation not to lose hope. “This is easy to be negative about, but I want to give people hope too. You know, I’m a cheerleader for the country.”
Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2020