The United States is entering what a senior official warned would be the "hardest" week of the coronavirus crisis as the death toll in the country continues to mount.
The US death toll was creeping toward the grim milestone of 10,000 as the pandemic's epicentre in New York racked up hundreds of lives lost a day and hospitals continue to brace for an influx of new infected patients.
For the first time in a week, deaths had fallen slightly in New York from the day before. But there were still nearly 600 new fatalities and more than 7,300 new cases in the state.
Overwhelmed with bodies, New York hospitals are having to put those who have passed away from COVID-19 in refrigerated trucks, makeshift morgues and leave them lined-up in corridors.
“This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans' lives, quite frankly,” US Surgeon General Jerome Adams warned on Fox News on Sunday, local time.
“This is going to be our Pearl Harbour moment, our 9/11 moment, only it's not going to be localised.
“It's going to be happening all over the country. And I want America to understand that.”
Dr Anthony Fauci, the senior American scientist battling the pandemic stateside, warned of a looming "escalation," saying Americans should prepare for "a bad week."
"I will not say we have it under control, that would be a false statement," Dr Fauci told CBS.
New York state has now reported 122,031 confirmed infections, roughly one-tenth the worldwide total and by far the most of any US state.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said he aimed to shift patients away from already overburdened hospitals to others with more capacity and equipment.
"I can't say to a hospital, I will send you all the supplies you need, all the vents you need. We don't have them," he said, referring to life-saving ventilator equipment.
The governor predicted the state would run out of ventilators by Thursday.
"You are going to have to shift and deploy to different locations,” he added.
Governor Cuomo said rapid testing, still out-of-reach, was key to a "return to normalcy," while reiterating desperate appeals for equipment including ventilators from other states as well as from the federal stockpile which has been a point of contention when it comes to the way the White House has handled the outbreak.
Cuomo vowed to return the favour as the virus spreads elsewhere – New Jersey, Michigan and Louisiana are all emerging hotspots – saying that New York could offer a strategic blueprint.
Places such as Pennsylvania, Colorado and Washington, DC, are also starting to see rising deaths.
President Donald Trump said the country faced a "great hour of grief," but expressed hope that deaths could be “levelling off” in New York.
"We see light at the end of the tunnel. Things are happening," he told reporters.
Dr Fauci, a member of Trump's coronavirus task force, said it took weeks for efforts like social distancing and stay-at-home orders to slow the virus' spread.
"What you're hearing about potential light at the end of the tunnel doesn't take away from the fact that tomorrow, the next day, are going to look really bad," he told reporters.
Nationally, cases of the deadly respiratory disease topped more than 337,000, while the death toll stood at 9,648, according to John Hopkins University at the time of writing.
with Reuters and AFP
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