Chicago: The death toll in the United States from coronavirus eclipsed Italy’s for the highest in the world Saturday at about 20,000, as Chicago and other cities across the Midwest braced for a potential surge in victims and moved to snuff out smoldering hot spots of contagion before they erupt. With the New York area still deep in crisis, fear mounted over the spread of the scourge into the nation’s heartland.
Twenty-four residents of an Indiana nursing home hit by COVID-19 have died, while a nursing home in Iowa saw 14 deaths. Cook County here has set up a temporary morgue that can take more than 2,000 bodies. And Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been going around telling groups of people to ‘break it up’.
Around the world, meanwhile, European countries used roadblocks, drones, helicopters, mounted patrols and the threat of fines to keep people from traveling over Easter weekend. And with infections and deaths slowing in Italy, Spain and other places in Europe, governments took tentative steps toward loosening the weeks-long shutdowns.
Glorious weather across Europe posed an extra test of people’s discipline.
“Don’t do silly things,” said Domenico Arcuri, Italy’s special commissioner for the virus emergency. “Don’t go out, continue to behave responsibly as you have done until today, use your head and your sense of responsibility.”
Italy registered 619 coronavirus deaths Saturday taking its overall tally to 19,468. However, health officials said that the number of deaths is decreasing on a daily basis.
The coronavirus outbreak’s center of gravity has long since shifted from China to Europe and the United States, which now has by far the largest number of confirmed cases – more than half-a-million – and death toll higher than Italy’s count of nearly 19,500, according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.
About half the deaths in the US are in the New York metropolitan area, where hospitalisations are nevertheless slowing and other indicators suggest lockdowns and social distancing are ‘flattening the curve’ of infections and staving off the doomsday scenarios of just a week or two ago.
New York state Saturday reported 783 more deaths, for a total over 8,600. Governor Andrew Cuomo said the daily number of deaths is stabilizing ‘but stabilizing at a horrific rate’. “What do we do now? We stay the course,” said Cuomo, who like other leaders has warned that relaxing restrictions too soon could enable the virus to come back with a vengeance.
With authorities warning that the crisis in New York is far from over, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city’s 1.1 million-student school system will remain closed for the rest of the academic year. But Cuomo said the decision is up to him, and no such determination has been made.