Coronavirus deaths top 1,000 in US

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus, which continues to strain health systems around the world, has now accounted for more than 1,000 deaths in the United States, according to a Johns Hopkins University database.

The virus, which originated in China in December, had infected roughly 480,000 people as of Thursday morning. In the U.S., about 69,200 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed, with 1,050 deaths reported. 

New York, which has become the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, has recorded 280 deaths, the most of any U.S. state.

The new statistics came as a number of states strengthened restrictions against gatherings and ordered the closures of non-essential businesses. Health officials have warned that social distancing requirements could be needed for weeks as part of an effort to slow the disease's spread and lessen the burden on hospitals experiencing a surge in patients.

The Senate on Wednesday night passed a mammoth $2.2 trillion stimulus package designed to help jumpstart an economy suffering severe damage from the near shutdown of the country. In addition to relief for workers and businesses, the bill provides $100 billion for hospitals and $200 billion for other “domestic priorities,” including child care and assistance for seniors.

Some federal and state officials have rejected the legislation, however, saying it doesn't go far enough to address the problems facing states and businesses.

The Trump administration on March 16 released guidelines urging Americans to avoid restaurants and bars, limit nonessential travel and keep in-person gatherings to 10 people or less. While health officials have warned that the virus's spread could worsen, Trump this week began floating the idea of reopening the U.S. economy by Easter Sunday.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, said that the timeline should be "very flexible."

Hospitals and health care providers in many regions of the country have been overwhelmed by a surge in patients, leading to shortages of critical equipment, including face masks, and intensive care units. The shortfalls have led to more press calling from states for the Trump administration to take swifter action to meet health care needs.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Wednesday that the state's hospitalization rate was “headed in the right direction" and that social distancing measures may be working.

But he projected that the peak of people requiring hospitalization in New York is about 21 days away and addressed the need to increase its hospital-bed capacity by more than 50 percent.

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