United States recorded 1,169 coronavirus fatalities in a single day, the Johns Hopkins University tracker showed Thursday, the highest one-day death toll recorded in any country since the global pandemic began.
The toll reflected figures reported by the university between 8:30pm Wednesday (0030 GMT) and the same time Thursday.
The grim record was previously held by Italy, where 969 people died on March 27.
The US has now recorded around 6000 coronavirus deaths since the pandemic began.
Trump changes his position on masks
US President Donald Trump’s administration appeared to join local officials on Thursday in advising Americans to wear masks when venturing out during the still-exploding coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking at a White House briefing, Deborah Birx, a member of Trump’s coronavirus task force, said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would issue guidelines in the coming days on the use of face coverings.
Birx however cautioned that Americans, who have been admonished to stay at home except for essential outings, should not develop a “false sense of security” that they are fully protected from the respiratory illness by wearing a mask.
Trump, answering questions from reporters at the same briefing, said only that “if people want to wear them, they can.”
Global cases surpassed 1 million on Thursday with more than 52,000 deaths, according to a Reuters tally based on country by country data.
White House medical experts have forecast that between 100,000 to 240,000 people could be killed even if Americans follow the sweeping lock-down orders.
The Trump administration, CDC and public health officials have all wavered on the issue of face masks since the pandemic broke out, initially telling healthy people such measures were unnecessary or even counter-productive.
Lack of resources
In New York City, the center of the US outbreak, Mayor Bill de Blasio urged residents to wear face coverings, citing studies showing that the virus can be transmitted by infected people who are showing no symptoms.
“What that means is when you put on that face covering you’re protecting everyone else,” de Blasio said. The Democratic mayor suggested New Yorkers use scarves or other home-made masks because medical-grade protective gear was in short supply.
An emergency stockpile of medical equipment maintained by the US government has nearly run out of protective garb for doctors and nurses.
In New York City, where at least 1,400 people have been killed by the virus, hospitals and morgues struggled to treat the desperately ill and bury the dead.
New York City funeral homes and cemetery directors described a surge in demand not seen in decades as cases surpassed 50,000 in the city.
Crematories extended their hours and burned bodies into the night, with corpses piling up so quickly that city officials were looking elsewhere in the state for temporary interment sites.
“We’ve been preparing for a worst-case scenario, which is in a lot of ways starting to materialise,” said Mike Lanotte, director of the New York State Funeral Directors Association.