U.S. coronavirus death toll doubles in 10 days to more than 50,000: Reuters tally

By Lisa Shumaker

(Reuters) – The U.S. death toll from the novel coronavirus reached 50,000 on Friday, having doubled in 10 days, according to a Reuters tally.

More than 875,000 Americans have contracted the highly contagious respiratory illness COVID-19 caused by the virus, and on average about 2,000 have died every day this month, according to a Reuters tally.

The true number of cases is thought to be higher, with state public health officials cautioning that shortages of trained workers and materials have limited testing capacity.

Deaths are also likely higher, as most states only count hospital and nursing home victims and not those who died at home. About 40% of the deaths have occurred in New York state, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, followed by New Jersey, Michigan and Massachusetts.

U.S. coronavirus deaths, the highest in the world, now exceed the total number of Americans killed in the 1950-53 Korean War – 36,516. Coronavirus has also killed more people in the United States than the seasonal flu in seven out of nine recent seasons, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/past-seasons.html.

Flu deaths range from a low of 12,000 in 2011-2012 to a high of 61,000 lives lost in the 2017-2018 season.

Coronavirus deaths in the United States fall far short of the Spanish flu, which began in 1918 and killed 675,000 Americans, according to the CDC.

Globally, coronavirus has claimed more than 190,000 lives since the outbreak began in China late last year. The United States, with the world’s third-largest population, has twice as many deaths as the next hardest-hit countries of Italy, Spain and France.

Of the top 20 most severely affected countries, the United States ranks ninth based on deaths per capita, according to a Reuters tally. The United States has 1.5 deaths per 10,000 people. Belgium ranks first at over five deaths per 10,000 people, followed by Spain, Italy, France and the United Kingdom.

Unprecedented stay-at-home orders issued to try to curb the spread of the virus have hammered the economy, with the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits over the last five weeks soaring to 26.5 million.

While some states have said they plan to begin reopening their economies over the coming weeks, health experts and some governors have warned that a premature easing of restrictions on movement could trigger a surge in new cases.

A Reuters/Ipsos survey this month found that a bipartisan majority of Americans want to continue to shelter in place to protect themselves from the coronavirus, despite the impact on the economy.

(Reporting by Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Grant McCool)

As U.S. coronavirus death toll nears 50,000, Georgia forges ahead with reopening

By Rich McKay and Susan Heavey

ATLANTA (Reuters) – With the U.S. coronavirus death toll nearing 50,000, Georgia pushed ahead with its plan to become the first state to allow an array of small businesses to reopen on Friday despite the disapproval of U.S. President Donald Trump and health experts.

Trump late on Thursday sparked fresh confusion over the prospects for treating COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, suggesting that scientists should investigate whether patients might be cured by ingesting disinfectant.

Gyms, hair salons, tattoo parlors and some other businesses were cleared to open their doors by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, who disregarded warnings from public health experts that relaxing restrictions could lead to a surge in infections of the novel coronavirus and more deaths.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence more than once told Kemp they approved of his plan to lift restrictions before Trump reversed that stance and told a news conference this week he disapproved, the Associated Press reported on Thursday, citing two administration officials.

Georgia has become a flashpoint in the debate over how quickly the country should get back to work.

It is the first state to embark on a widespread reopening, although Oklahoma was also opening some retail businesses on Friday, Florida started allowing people to visit some of its beaches last Friday, South Carolina began to ease restrictions on Monday and other states will relax guidelines next week.

The lockdowns have exacted a severe toll on the economy, with U.S. Labor Department data released on Thursday showing 26.5 million Americans had sought jobless benefits over the last five weeks.

Despite the lost revenues, not all businesses are jumping at the chance to reopen. Shay Cannon, owner of Liberty Tattoo in Atlanta, Georgia, said he would reopen in May by appointment only and did not foresee a return to normal until June or later.

“We are not opening today, we feel it is too soon,” Cannon told Reuters. “We’re just watching the numbers and doing what seems right to us.”


Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who has repeatedly criticized Kemp’s push to reopen businesses, told the ABC News “Good Morning America” program that Georgia did not have the hospital capacity to handle the outbreak and warned of a second wave of cases.

“It’s necessary that we continue to distance ourselves,” she told ABC. “There are some who are willing to sacrifice lives for the sake of the economy and that’s unacceptable to me.”

The number of Americans known to be infected surpassed 875,000, with nearly 50,000 deaths from COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, according to a Reuters tally.

According to a model maintained by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, which is used by the White House, hospitalizations in Georgia will peak next week and should not open until June 22.

Oklahoma plans to open hair and nail salons, barber shops and other personal care businesses on Friday, and will expand the easing of restrictions to restaurants, churches and gyms on May 1. Governor Kevin Stitt has said businesses need to maintain space for customers to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

With far fewer cases and deaths than Georgia, the IHME model predicts that Oklahoma already hit its hospitalizations peak on Tuesday and could loosen restrictions on June 17.

At his media briefing on Thursday, Trump said scientists should explore whether inserting light or disinfectant into the bodies of people infected with COVID-19 might serve as a “cleaning” and clear the disease.

The comments prompted doctors and health experts to issue warnings to the public not to drink or inject disinfectant, while Lysol and Dettol maker Reckitt Benckiser <RB.L> felt compelled to issue a statement of its own.

“Under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route),” the company said.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta, Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut, Susan Heavey in Washington and Jessica Resnick-Ault in New York; Writing by Nathan Layne; Editing by Frank McGurty and Howard Goller)

U.S. coronavirus death toll tops 1,000 as unemployment widens

By Doina Chiacu and Maria Caspani

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. coronavirus death toll topped the 1,000 milestone as the pandemic’s mounting economic burden was illustrated by government data on Thursday showing a record number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits and hospitals struggled to treat a surge of infected patients.

Roughly half the United States was under “stay at home” orders to try to curb the spread of the virus, with the side effects of strangling the economy and unleashing a wave of layoffs. Help may be on the way as the U.S. Congress neared approval of a $2 trillion economic stimulus package.

The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits surged to a record of nearly 3.28 million last week, the Labor Department reported, nearly five times the previous weekly record of 695,000 from the recession of 1982.

And the Labor Department report may understate the problem as the official statistics typically have not included the self-employed or independent contractors. The economy is already in recession, according to some economists.

Louis DeAngelis, 26, worked as a bar tender in Plymouth, New Hampshire, until early last week, when the state’s governor closed all bars and restaurants because of the virus threat. After applying without any problems, he found out he will receive $159 a week, or slightly less than half of his weekly income.

“I’m fortunate to have some family who are willing to help,” said DeAngelis, who also worked as a substitute teacher. “I’ve got options, but a lot of folks don’t.”

A running tally kept by Johns Hopkins University showed that at least 1,046 people had died from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus. COVID-19 has been particularly dangerous to the elderly and people with pre-existing medical conditions. New York state leads the nation in both deaths and infections.

Hospitals, laid-off workers and struggling companies will receive badly needed economic aid under the record-setting economic stimulus legislation approved by the Senate late on Wednesday in a 96-0 vote. House of Representatives leaders said they hoped to pass the bill on Friday, and President Donald Trump has said he would sign it into law.

“Every day matters so we want to get this done quickly,” House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said in an interview with Fox News.

The weekly jobless claims report offered the clearest evidence yet of the pandemic’s impact on the economy, putting an end to nearly 9-1/2 years of job growth.

“The number has sent chills through the markets. If these numbers continue for three or four weeks, there will be demand for more fiscal support,” said Quicky Krosby, chief market strategist for Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the United States “may well be in recession.”

Powell said reactivating the economy would have to wait until the virus is under control, despite Trump’s stated desire to resume economic activity by Easter, April 12.

“The first order of business will be to get the spread of the virus under control and then resume economic activity,” Powell told NBC’s Today Show.

“We know that economic activity will decline probably substantially in the second quarter, but I think many expect, and I would expect, economic activity to resume and move back up in the second half of the year,” Powell said.

Powell also said he would defer to experts such as Anthony Fauci, head of U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, for guidance on when to lift restrictions.

Fauci told WNYC public radio in New York on Thursday that the changing weather could help combat the virus because generally warm and moist weather provides better conditions than a cold and dry winter.

But he also warned the virus could return for the next northern winter and that experts could not predict this novel coronavirus because it was “unique.”

“We hope we get a respite as we get into April, May and June. It is likely to come around next season because it’s a very vigorous virus,” Fauci said.

“We’re already seeing more infected people in the southern hemisphere now as we head into their winter. So I hope and I think we might get a respite with the weather, which will hopefully give us more time to then prepare for what might be a second round or a seasonal cycling,” Fauci said.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been sounding the alarm about an expected shortage of hospital beds and ventilators. In Italy, the country with the highest number of coronavirus deaths, overwhelmed hospitals have become vehicles of contamination with up to one-fifth of personnel testing positive for the virus at one Milan hospital.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Maria Caspani; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Will Dunham)