US braces for ‘demarcation line’
US Democrats have pushed back the date to nominate the party's candidate who will challenge Donald Trump in November - in the first sign that the presidential election could be affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The democratic national convention has been postponed until August 17, five weeks after the gathering was originally scheduled for July 13-16 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
"In our current climate of uncertainty, we believe the smartest approach is to take additional time to monitor how this situation unfolds so we can best position our party for a safe and successful convention," Democratic National Convention Committee head Joe Solmonese said in a statement.
The decision came after the party's likely nominee, Joe Biden, said the convention would likely need to be delayed to allow for a greater chance of holding a safe in-person gathering.
More than 232,837 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the US, which now leads the world-tally for COVID-19 infections.
The pandemic has already killed more than 5,550 people nationwide, with more than 1000 related deaths reported in the US on Wednesday. The new fatalities roughly doubled the country's death toll from the day before, which came in at about 500. Among the victims reported Wednesday was a six-week-old baby in the US state of Connecticut.
The rapid increase in deaths comes after Mr Trump warned Americans to get ready for a "very tough two weeks".
Globally, more than 50,000 people have died from COVID-19, the disease associated with coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University.
RELATED: New York's grim death count
The surge in coronavirus cases in the US resembles Italy, Mike Pence previously said. The US vice president told CNN that "Italy may be the most comparable area to the United States at this point, for a variety of reasons". Jerome Adams, the US surgeon general, defended the White House's reluctance to issue a nationwide stay-at-home order, saying that "governors get to make the decisions".
US EPICENTRE BRACES FOR THE WORST
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has repeatedly warned that the city - already at the US epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic - is about to be hit by an overwhelming surge of patients.
New York State had the highest number of confirmed deaths - at least 2,373 - in the country, as of Thursday afternoon.
In March, as the number of coronavirus cases in New York City grew and the death toll mounted, Mr de Blasio warned that April would be worse. He repeatedly invoked April 5 as a "demarcation line" when it needed to have vastly increased its medical supplies and health workers. And now it's just days away.
"This is the point at which we must be prepared for next week when we expect a huge increase in the number of cases," he said.
As of Thursday morning local time, there were 92,381 confirmed cases of coronavirus in New York State, up from 83,712 the day prior. Of those, 13,383 are now in hospital, up from 12,226 on Wednesday. The state's death toll also jumped from 1941 to 2,373 overnight.
Speaking at his daily press conference, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the apex would likely be reached in 7 to 30 days - depending on social distancing and which model was looked at.
"We believe it is closer to the shorter end of the range with our in house people looking at the professional modelling that's being done," he said.
But he also warned that the fight would be long. "Calibrate yourself and your expectations so you're not disappointed every day you get up," he said. "The duration itself is debilitating and exhausting and depressing."
Meanwhile, lifesaving ventilators are starting to run short. "At the current burn rate, we have six days of ventilators in our stockpile," Mr Cuomo said.
"If a person comes in and needs a ventilator, and you don't have a ventilator, the person dies. That's the blunt equation here."
Some patients are already sharing ventilators, according to the governor.
"It's better than nothing," he said.
Emergency field hospitals have been built in Central Park and at Flushing Meadows, home of the US Open tennis tournament. Some 1,400 New York police officers have tested positive for the virus and at least five have died. About 17 per cent of all officers are on sick leave, at least four times the normal rate. "This is even worse than 9/11," one NYPD officer told Reuters. "We are bringing this home to our families."
This emergency field hospital, with an ICU tent and ventilators, has been set up in Central Park to accommodate the masses of coronavirus sufferers in New York who need medical attention @newscomauHQ pic.twitter.com/A4A5bCuUEE— Megan Palin (@Megan_Palin) March 30, 2020
A field hospital with an ICU has been set up in the middle of Central Park to take the pressure off overflowing hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic. It opens Tuesday morning and will be “full by night” @newscomauHQ pic.twitter.com/B1yK5ornmh— Megan Palin (@Megan_Palin) March 30, 2020
Nearly a quarter of the city's emergency medical service workers are off sick too, the New York fire department said. Oren Barzilay, a fire department official in Queens, said that emergency medical workers were dealing with "madness" and preferring to sleep in their cars after shifts of up to 20 hours, rather than risk infecting their family. "They'd rather stay here, sleep in the car, wash up and go do it again," he said.
US Naval hospital ship Comfort has docked in New York Harbour, bringing an additional 1000 beds and 1200 health workers to the city, now the US epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic @newscomauHQ pic.twitter.com/s3ympAkowz— Megan Palin (@Megan_Palin) March 30, 2020
MILLIONS OF AMERICANS LOSE JOBS
An estimated nine in 10 Americans are under stay-at-home orders, and a record-breaking 10 million people in the country have filed for unemployment benefits in the last two weeks.
Countless workers have had hours slashed, been furloughed, or lost their jobs entirely as many non-essential businesses around the nation have had to close their doors.
Unemployment figures rose after Mr Trump signed a $2.2 trillion stimulus bill that pays people what they would earn on the job.
A senior White House official told CBS News that the stunning number of claims reinforced the "need for speed" in distributing funds promised in the stimulus package.
Some economists anticipate that as the economy continues to be affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, unemployment rates could hit 13 per cent.
This would be higher than rates seen during the Great Recession, when the figure hit 10 per cent before its end in 2009.
In October last year, the number of Americans without work hit a 50-year low, at 3.5 per cent.
Originally published as US braces for 'demarcation line'