More than 500,000 coronavirus cases have been reported across the U.S. as of Saturday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, as officials weigh plans on how and when to ease measures aimed at curbing the virus’ spread.
The U.S. has seen more than 18,700 deaths from the virus, while the number of recovered patients has surpassed 29,000, according to Johns Hopkins. The number of total cases have swelled to over half a million less than 12 weeks after the first case was identified in the U.S.
Roughly 45 percent of the reported cases have come from New York and New Jersey alone, though states such as Michigan, California, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have also seen their number of confirmed cases stretch into the tens of thousands.
Officials have anticipated the number of cases to grow as more testing becomes available. Public health experts also note that widespread testing will be key to efforts to reopen the economy, though labs have reported backlogs and delays.
“We need an unprecedented mobilization where the government can produce these tests in the millions,” New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoOvernight Health Care: Trump calls decision on reopening US biggest of his life | Trump to convene council to advise | Health officials push back on May opening | States see virus cases rise | Global death toll passes 100K 16 things to know about coronavirus for today The Hill’s Coronavirus Report: David Miliband says world won’t be safe until poor nations get more aid; Cuomo rips WHO MORE (D) said Friday, calling on President TrumpDonald John TrumpCalifornia governor praises Trump’s efforts to help state amid coronavirus crisis Trump threatens to withhold visas for countries that don’t quickly repatriate citizens Trump admin looks to cut farmworker pay to help industry during pandemic: report MORE to use the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of testing kits and supplies.
“We have 9 million people we want to get back to work. We need more than several thousand tests per week if this is going to happen anytime soon,” he added.
Trump said Friday that he would convene a new council of administration officials, business leaders and political figures from around the country to map out a potential plan to reopen the United States.
The pandemic has shuttered businesses across the country and forced millions of Americans to apply for unemployment, crippling the economy and putting a strain on whole industries. Trump has appeared eager to relax social distancing guidelines, and some administration officials have suggested businesses could reopen as early as next month.
Several states have extended their stay-at-home orders until May, while some governors have moved to further limit individual contact within communities to further clamp down on the virus’ spread. Starting Saturday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has restricted travel between residences in the state, with few exceptions.
Despite the economic toll, Trump has said he will listen to public health experts, who point to the rising number of deaths and warn that reopening the country too early could lead to a spike in cases, allowing the virus to surge in communities and potentially leading to hospitals being overcapacity.
“I don’t know that I’ve had a bigger decision. But I’m going to surround myself with the greatest minds. Not only the greatest minds, but the greatest minds in numerous different businesses, including the business of politics and reason,” Trump told reporters at a White House press briefing.
“And we’re going to make a decision, and hopefully it’s going to be the right decision,” he continued. “I will say this. I want to get it open as soon as we can.”