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Covid-19: Trump says US 'passed the peak', plans to lift some restrictions

Members of the Gutierrez family mourn graveside, during a non customary military burial service amid an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), for Robert Gutierrez, who was given a Purple Heart award for serving in the Vietnam War and passed away of a non-coronavirus related death, at the Bakersfield National Cemetery in Arvin, California, U.S., April 3, 2020. The family was given limited social distance to the casket, only ten members allowed to attend the funeral and a ceremonial U.S. flag wasn’t given due to precautions from the coronavirus.
Members of the Gutierrez family mourn graveside, during a non customary military burial service amid an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), for Robert Gutierrez, who was given a Purple Heart award for serving in the Vietnam War and passed away of a non-coronavirus related death, at the Bakersfield National Cemetery in Arvin, California, U.S., April 3, 2020. The family was given limited social distance to the casket, only ten members allowed to attend the funeral and a ceremonial U.S. flag wasn’t given due to precautions from the coronavirus. © Shannon Stapleton TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY, Reuters

President Donald Trump said the United States was past the worst of the coronavirus pandemic and he would announce guidelines for reopening the country on Thursday.

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US coronavirus deaths increased by a record number for the second day in a row, rising by 2,569 on Wednesday, based on data from Johns Hopkins University.

The United States recorded its first coronavirus fatality on Feb. 29. It took 38 days to reach 10,000 deaths and just nine more days to go from 10,000 fatalities to 30,000. The previous highest single-day death toll was 2,364 on Tuesday.

Confirmed cases topped 635,000 in the US and 2 million globally.

Despite the spike in fatalities, there were tentative signs in some parts of the country that the outbreak was beginning to ebb.

Governors of about 20 states with fewer coronavirus cases believe they may be ready to start the process of reopening their economies by President Donald Trump's May 1 target date, a top U.S. health official said on Wednesday.

Governors in harder-hit states - New York, California, Louisiana, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Michigan - said there was a need for more widespread testing before starting to end the coronavirus shutdown, which has thrown millions out of work and closed restaurants, businesses and schools.

Health officials have noted that death figures are a lagging indicator of the outbreak, coming after the most severely ill patients fall sick, and do not mean stay-at-home restrictions are failing to curb transmissions.

New York state and some other hard-hit areas continue to report sharp decreases in hospitalisations and numbers of patients on ventilators, although frontline healthcare workers and resources remained under extraordinary stress.

Officials have also cautioned that figures for coronavirus-related deaths are likely inaccurate due to people dying at home or in nursing homes who were never tested for the virus.

'Passed the Peak'

Trump said Wednesday the United States is past the worst of the coronavirus pandemic and that he will announce guidelines for reopening the economy on Thursday.

"It is clear that our aggressive strategy is working," he told a news conference. "The battle continues but the data suggests that nationwide we have passed the peak on new cases."

Trump added that "these encouraging developments have put us in a very strong position to finalize guidelines for states on reopening the country." 

He said he would discuss this in a news conference on Thursday, "announcing guidelines."

Facing a tough re-election in November, the Republican president has been bullish on reopening the world's largest economy as soon as possible.

On Monday, he threatened to invoke his "total" power to force state governors to follow his directives on reopening, prompting an outcry.

He backpedaled on the comment the following day, saying he was not going to put "any pressure" on governors to reopen.

"We'll be opening up states, some states much sooner than others," Trump said during his Wednesday briefing. "We think some of the states can open up before the deadline of May 1."

"We'll be the comeback kids, all of us."

Anthony Fauci, the veteran US pandemic expert, said in a televised interview Sunday that parts of the country could begin easing restrictions in May, but cautioned that reopening would not work like a "light switch."

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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