U.S. COVID-19 cases surpass half a million; Trump faces 'biggest decision' on re-opening economy

NEW YORK: The number of coronavirus cases detected in the United States rose past half a million over the Easter weekend with 18,700 deat...

NEW YORK: The number of coronavirus cases detected in the United States rose past half a million over the Easter weekend with 18,700 deaths, as President Donald Trump said the decision on when it was safe to reopen the country would be the biggest he had ever had to make.

Public health experts have warned that the U.S. death toll could spike to 200,000 over the summer if unprecedented stay-at-home orders that have closed businesses and kept most Americans indoors are lifted after 30 days.

Trump, seeking re-election in November, has said he wants life to return to normal as soon as possible and that the sweeping restrictions on movement aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus carry their own economic and public-health cost.

“I’m going to have to make a decision, and I ... hope to God that it’s the right decision,” he told reporters on Friday. “It’s the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make.”

Trump said the facts would determine the next move. Asked what metrics he would use to make his judgment, he pointed at his forehead: “The metrics right here, that’s my metrics.”

The current federal guidelines run to April 30. The president will then have to decide whether to extend them or start encouraging people to go back to work and a more normal way of life. Trump said he would unveil a new advisory council, possibly on Tuesday, that will include some state governors and will focus on the process of reopening the U.S. economy.

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits in the last three weeks surpassed 15 million, as weekly new claims topped 6 million for the second straight time last week.

The government has said the economy purged 701,000 jobs in March. That was the most job losses since the Great Recession and ended the longest employment boom in U.S. history that started in late 2010.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, chairman of the National Governors Association, and vice-chair Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York on Saturday urged the federal government to provide immediate fiscal relief for states battling the outbreak.

While emergency measures such as stay-at-home orders were working, “they result in catastrophic damage to state economies,” the governors said in a statement.

They also called on the U.S. Congress to appropriate $500 billion to meet the states’ budgetary shortfalls that have resulted from the “unprecedented” crisis.

The two top Republicans in Congress on Saturday said they would continue to oppose Democrats’ demands to include funding for items other than small business relief in a proposed coronavirus aid bill.

With more than 90% of the country under stay-at-home orders, the Christian calendar’s holiest weekend has mostly featured services livestreamed or broadcast to worshippers watching from home. With many churches already short of funds, untouched collection plates at what is usually a busy time of the year are adding to the pressure on their finances.

A handful of holdout U.S. churches planned to go ahead with in-person services on Easter Sunday, saying their rights to worship outweighed public health warnings.

But there were glimmers of hope this week.

-Source: News Agency

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Local Glob: U.S. COVID-19 cases surpass half a million; Trump faces 'biggest decision' on re-opening economy
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