Covid-19: As US braces for ‘hardest and saddest’ week, Trump sees ‘light at the end of tunnel

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Americans braced themselves for the “hardest and saddest” week as coronavirus fatalities are expected to peak in some parts of the country while President Donald Trump maintained he had seen “light at the end of the tunnel”, holding out hope of a turnaround “in not too distant future”.

US fatalities from the coronavirus neared 10,000 with 9,653 by Sunday morning with more than 4,150 in New York state and 3,048 in New York City alone, the epicenter of the US outbreak. The state registered a drop in one-day deaths Sunday though and that gave rise to guarded optimism of a “plateauing in the data”.

The number of confirmed cases in the United States stood at more than 330,000, accounting for a fourth of the global pandemic count of 1.2 million. New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Louisiana continued to be the hardest hit states and New York City, Detroit, New Orleans, Miami among the most impacted cities, with the national capital Washington DC being cited as a growing concern.

“This is going to be the hardest and saddest week of most Americans’ lives, quite frankly,” US surgeon general Jerome M Adams told Fox News on Sunday and went on to draw parallels with key pivotal moments in US history and lives. “This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment, only it’s not going to be localized. It’s going to be happening all over the country.”

Fatalities are expected to peak this week in some parts of the country, public health officials have said, from infections contracted around two weeks ago, before the country began shutting down with enhanced social-distancing measures and stay-at-home orders now in force in all but eight states.

US officials had earlier warned the past week and this would be the hardest hit and President Trump sought to prepare Americans for this as the “toughest week” with a grim warning of a “lot of death”. Experts of the White House coronavirus task force have said 100,000 to 240,000 American could die in the epidemic even with the social-distancing measures in place.

The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, an independent body often cited by the White House coronavirus task force, has said the projected peak day is still 10 days away, April 16, when 3,130 deaths have been projected nationwide. And New York state is projected to peak on Wednesday (April 8) with projected fatalities to 878 on that day.

But the president sought to strike a note of optimism, as he has throughout this unprecedented health crisis, telling reporters at the daily briefing of the task force on Sunday, “We see light at the end of the tunnel. Things are happening. We’re 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.” He doubled down it with the morning after, with a twitter post in all-caps: “LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL”.

Asked if the president’s optimism was contradictory to the spike in death being predicted by experts, Anthony Fauci, the epidemiologist who has emerged as the most trusted member of the president’s task force, said, “I don’t think they’re so different. I think we all know that we have to reach a certain point. And that point is going to be a horrific point in terms of death. But it’s also a point at which things are going to start changing.”

He said there was a lag time of two weeks in cases and fatalities and the impact of mitigation effort in place now will be seen in two weeks. But, he cautioned, “What you’re hearing about potential light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t take away form the fact that tomorrow or the next day is going to look really bad.”

Deborah Birx, the task force coordinator, concurred, but said that “although we’ll see rising number of cases of people who lose their lives to this illness, we’re also hopeful to see a stabilization of cases across these large metro areas where the outbreak began several weeks ago”.

The United States has begin to show the effects of social-distancing as was happening in Italy, which had begun to turn after weeks of spiraling cases and death, she added.

US Navy commander Brett Crozier whose plea for help for his coronavirus-affected crew led to his dismissal has himself tested positive, in the meanwhile.

And a tiger at a New York city zoo has tested positive for coronavirus in a first, the US department of agriculture said in a statement. The animal caught the infection from an employee and this is being called the first human-to-cat transmission of the deadly pathogen. The department went on to caution with people with coronavirus to avoid contact with pets and other animals.

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