THE Surgeon General has warmed America could become worse than Italy if people do not take coronavirus social distancing seriously.
The country's top public health official, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, issued his starkest warning to date as the nation's death toll surpasses 1,000 and New York sees more than 100 deaths in a day.
The number of coronavirus cases continues to grow throughout the nation, particularly in New York State where officials say the death toll has jumped over 100 in just a day to 385.
Almost 40,000 people were infected — 21,000 cases in New York City alone — as of Thursday morning.
"I'm heartened by the people around the country who are doing the right thing, but we're still seeing far too many pictures of people out there doing the wrong things," Adams said in an interview with Fox News on Thursday.
"Playing basketball, out on beaches. We need America to understand that we still could be like Italy. We could be worse than Italy if we don't participate in these 15 days to stop the spread."
We need America to understand that we still could be like Italy. We could be worse than Italy if we don't participate in these 15 days to stop the spread.
Adams said that President Trump outlined an optimistic timeline for Americans in an effort to "help people understand that there is a light at the end of this tunnel".
Referring to New York's recent explosion of confirmed coronavirus cases, the nation's top health official said hospitalizations were starting to level off after hospitals were overwhelmed by the outbreak.
He added: "And when you look at China, when you look at South Korea, their curve was about two to two and a half months.
"So there is hope that if we continue to lead into the mitigation efforts and we're two-thirds of the way through this 15 days to stop the spread initiative, that we can flatten the curve and that we can get to the end of this more quickly."
On Monday, Adam issued an ominous warning about the health risk posed by the coronavirus outbreak, warning Americans that the crisis was "going to get bad" this week.
The warning was issued as nearly one-third of Americans awoke to "stay at home orders."
By Thursday, the total coronavirus deaths in the U.S. skyrocketed past 1,000, with more than 200 deaths confirmed for the first time in a 24-hour period.
The country is 11 days behind Italy in terms of of the virus spreading but already has a higher number of infections, with 79,785 cases confirmed.
NEW YORK EPICENTER
About half of the cases of coronavirus in the nation have been identified in New York state, with New York City claiming 385 deaths at the epicenter of the outbreak.
It's the most deaths in a single state in the country.
The number of confirmed infections in New York rose to 37,000 – about half the U.S. total – including 6,400 in the past day.
One hospital in Queens saw 13 patients die in the space of 24 hours, NYC Health + Hospitals spokesperson Christopher Miller told WNBC.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says Elmhurst Hospital is "holding its own" but is in "race against time", and needs immediate help amid COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
Yesterday, de Blasio cautioned around half of all New Yorkers may get coronavirus.
"We are concerned about how many people are contracting the disease. I mean, I've been honest with New Yorkers – probably before this is over, half of all New Yorkers, if not more, will contract this disease," de Blasio told CNN's Anderson Cooper.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo warned hospitals may be soon overwhelmed and, together with de Blasio, asked for additional masks, ventilators and medical supplies as the city prepares for a massive increase in COVID-19 cases in already tight hospital quarters.
About 15 percent of cases in the state require hospitalization, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Based on the large number of hospitalized patients on ventilators, the number of deaths is expected to continue to increase, Cuomo said.
The US is now third globally in terms of the number of people infected by the virus – behind only China and Italy – and has seen at least 1,070 deaths.
The World Health Organization echoed similar thoughts, saying it was seeing a "very large acceleration" in coronavirus infections in the United States which had the potential of becoming the new epicenter.
Over the past 24 hours, 85 per cent of new cases were from Europe and the United States, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told reporters.
Of those, 40 per cent were from the United States.
'WHOLE COUNTRY AT RISK'
Dr. Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told The Hill that while New York City is currently home to almost half the cases in the country, other cities are seeing their case counts rising at alarming rates.
“We're looking at our flu syndromic data, our respiratory illness that presents at emergency departments. Across the country there's a number of areas that are escalating," she explained, adding that Americans need to take the epidemic seriously.
"There's just dozens of places we're watching,” Schuchat said.
“We really need to expect that the whole country's at risk here, and we have to look across our health care system within each jurisdiction to have them be as strong as possible.”
Meanwhile, President Trump has expressed a want to get the country running again by Easter – but health experts have warned this may not be possible.
The US leader said earlier this week he may end the lockdown by the end of March – saying “we cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.”
"America will, again, and soon, be open for business. Very soon. A lot sooner than three or four months," he said during the daily White House coronavirus briefing Monday.
His comments came as the U.S. for the first time saw a death toll hit triple digits for a single day.
He added that officials won't "let the cure be worse than the problem."
"Our country wasn't built to be shut down," Trump said at the Coronavirus Task Force Briefing.
The President assured that the U.S. can both function as a country and the economy can recover as the nation works to curb coronavirus spread.
"We can do two things at once," he said.
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