The U.S. coronavirus death toll – the highest in the world – surged past 30,000 on Wednesday after doubling in a week, while the hardest-hit state of New York ordered residents to wear masks in certain settings to combat the pandemic.
The sobering milestone was reached at a time when states spared the worst of the pandemic were mulling a partial lifting of restrictions on business and social life by May 1, a target date promoted by President Donald Trump.
The goal of getting the country back to work took on more urgency with the release of two government reports showing plummeting retail sales and factory output last month.
U.S. deaths on Wednesday stood at 30,400, according to a Reuters tally, with 630,000 confirmed coronavirus cases. After the first U.S. death, reported on Feb. 29, it took 38 days to reach 10,000 deaths and nine days to jump from 10,000 fatalities to 30,000.
A University of Washington model, often cited by the White House, this week predicted the total U.S. deaths in the pandemic could reach about 68,800 by early August. That suggests the United States has not even reached the halfway point in possible fatalities.
Italy, with more than 21,000, has the second-most reported deaths caused by the pathogen that first emerged last year in China, followed by Spain with more than 18,500. Worldwide, the pathogen has killed at least 133,000 people.
After saying earlier this week that New York had passed the worst of the crisis, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday ordered his state’s 19 million residents to wear masks or substitutes when in any public situation that may not allow them to be at least six feet away from others. New Yorkers will have three days to comply with the order, aimed at ensuring the mask wearer does not infect others.
Cuomo said 752 people died in his state in the past day – down slightly from the previous day but still high, although hospitalizations declined in a sign the crisis was easing.