US virus deaths at 40K, NY deaths drop as Cuomo says antibody tests to begin

Washington, Apr 19 (efe-epa).- The United States on Sunday surpassed the 40,000 threshold for coronavirus deaths with 755,553 confirmed cases so far, as it remains in first place worldwide in both grim statistics.

The Johns Hopkins University reported that 41,379 people have died from Covid-19 so far in the US with New York suffering 14,451 of those fatalities as the epicenter so far for the pandemic in this country as state governors are analyzing the prospects for easing quarantine restrictions and resuming some economic activities.

Meanwhile, however, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday that indications are that his state has passed the peak in terms of the rate of increase of new coronavirus cases and the number of new cases is declining each day, as evidenced by the still-horrendous death toll of “only” 507 in the last 24 hours, albeit compared to 540 during the previous day.

The US Health and Human Services Department says that 13,869 people have died from Covid-19 so far in New York state, but Johns Hopkins University cites a higher figure because it adds about 3,700 people who died in their homes without being confirmed by testing to have been infected, although they were clearly suffering from symptoms of the virus.

Cuomo said, for the third consecutive day, that there has been a decline in the number of new hospitalizations, with 16,000 currently hospitalized, whereas there had been 18,000 people hospitalized with the virus at the highest point.

The governor said that the state was still dealing with a large number of cases, although the figure was increasing at a slower rate, noting that 1,300 new hospitalizations were tallied in the past 24 hours, 700 fewer than during the previous 24 hours.

Cuomo said that the road ahead will be a long one, and much work remains to be done, expressing his continued concern over the plight of elderly New Yorkers, this group being among the most vulnerable to the virus.

“It’s good news only compared to the terrible news that we were living with,” Cuomo said at his daily coronavirus press conference. “It’s not time to get cocky and it’s no time to get arrogant. We still have a long way to go. … It’s only halftime. We’ve shown we can control the beast. We have to make sure we keep that beast under control.”

According to the New York governor, the next phase will be to begin performing a massive number of antibody tests on state residents so that health authorities can – for the first time – get a definitive figure on how many people have really been sick, but have recovered and thus have created antibodies. He said this process will begin this coming week and that antibody testing will be performed on “thousands” of people.

But Cuomo also said that now is not the time to let down one’s guard.

“The beast is still alive. We did not kill the beast. The beast can rise up again. We know that. The virus rate is wholly dependent on you (i.e. the public). You tell me what you do today as a society, I’ll tell you how many people are going to walk into a hospital three days from today.”

Also on Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence said that “nobody” wants to reopen the country more than President Donald Trump, although many governors have criticized the president for last week tweeting out support for demonstrations against the lockdown orders and have said that they need more test kits and supplies before they can open up their states and ease measures imposed to try and limit the spread of the coronavirus.

“No one wants to reopen America more than President Donald Trump, and I think the American people have known that from weeks ago when the president declared that important balance: We have to make sure the cure isn’t worse than the disease,” he said on Fox News on Sunday morning.

“The reality is that for all the sacrifices the American people have made, sacrifices that have literally saved lives, the truth is: There are real costs, including the health and wellbeing of the American people, to continue to go through the shutdown that we are in today,” Pence added.

Over the past few days, Trump had tweeted that Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia should “liberate” themselves, comments seemingly in support of demonstrations by his supporters there protesting the lockdown measures and demanding that their Democratic governors lift those quarantines.

A survey released Sunday by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal found that 58 percent of the 900 registered voters consulted between April 13-15 said that they were worried that the country is moving too quickly toward easing lockdown restrictions, while 32 percent do not want the lockdowns to remain in effect any longer.

Pence, who heads the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said that Trump is going to continue to encourage governors to find ways to allow Americans to return to work in a “safe” and “responsible” manner, telling NBC News that “more than 150,000” coronavirus tests are being performed each day, although health experts and state governors have said that many hundreds of thousands more per day need to be performed to ensure that a clear understanding exists of who is sick, given that contagious people often show no symptoms of the virus.

Last Thursday, Trump presented an economic and social plan to reopen the country as protests have been growing against confinement orders.

The president said that it would be governors’ decision when to open their states in keeping with the three-phase plan, which does not have an established time schedule, although he asserted that in 29 of the country’s 50 states the conditions exist to begin the first phase of the plan, where coronavirus cases have declined over the past 14 days and hospitals are operating under “normal” conditions.

A number of governors said Sunday, however, that they don’t have enough testing kits or supplies to be able to consider a quick reopening, adding that it is unhelpful for Trump to be encouraging protests against the anti-coronavirus measures.

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