US President Donald Trump will release guidelines on Thursday with steps to reopen the economy and return to normalcy.
Trump said the country appears to have “passed the peak” with regards to new infections of the coronavirus, during a Wednesday briefing at the Rose Garden outside the White House.
“While we must remain vigilant, it is clear that our aggressive strategy is working,” Trump said.
While states like California and New York have indicated they want to reopen when possible, there is concern that a lack of testing capacity will hinder the process, because insufficient testing could lead to resurgent outbreaks and because people will lack confidence to resume their usual routines.
The shortage of coronavirus tests has plagued the US response since the onset of the outbreak, though Trump has regularly downplayed the severity of the problem.
“The more testing, the more opening of the economy, but there’s not enough national capacity to do this,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at his own daily briefing. “It is very hard to bring this to scale quickly and we need the federal government to be part of this.”
New York is the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, with at least 213,700 confirmed cases, more than any other country.
Health officials say some states may be able to reopen sooner than others, and certain restrictions on public gatherings, for example, will have to remain in place for some time.
Los Angeles City Mayor Eric Garcetti said large gatherings like concerts and major sporting events are unlikely in his city until 2021.
“Nothing I’ve heard would indicate that we’ll be in those large thousands of people gatherings anytime soon and probably not for the rest of this year,” Garcetti said in an interview with CNN.
Garcetti said that around five to 10 per cent of Los Angeles residents are expected to have contracted the novel coronavirus by fall, around September, meaning the city could still experience a large surge in infections.
Trump is looking to have the first relaxation of rules enacted even earlier than his most recently stated goal of May 1.
More than 16 million people in the US have filed unemployment claims as a result of economic shutdowns to prevent the virus spread.
New weekly unemployment numbers will be released on Thursday, just hours ahead of Trump’s planned announcement on reopening, with millions more expected to join the ranks.
Health officials say citizens are largely abiding by social distancing rules and this is containing the outbreak, even as the absolute number of cases rises and the death toll mounts.
The US is the hardest-hit nation in the world, with at least 619,600 confirmed cases and 27,760 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Trump said that deaths would also emerge as a result of people not working, citing concerns over depression.
Cuomo, meanwhile, said he would require people in the state to wear face coverings in public when they cannot maintain social distance of around 2 metres from others.
The order comes into effect over the weekend, indicating he is not yet convinced the state was out of the woods. New York was still in a “monumental public health crisis,” he said.
In encouraging news, hospitalizations and intubations were down and the “health situation has stabilized,” Cuomo said.
The governor said there had been 752 more virus-related deaths in a day, bringing the state’s official death toll to over 11,500.
The real number of fatalities is likely much higher, as Cuomo said the state would adjust its reporting to include victims who had not tested positive but are presumed to have succumbed to the virus. (dpa)