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U.S. coronavirus deaths hit 10,000; Trump approves USNS Comfort to treat N.Y. patients

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President Donald Trump on Tuesday approved the USNS Comfort to treat COVID-19 patients instead of acting only as a space to alleviate pressure on New York's hospital system as the state reported 600 new deaths and 8,600 additional cases.  Photo by Stefanie Reynolds/UPI
President Donald Trump on Tuesday approved the USNS Comfort to treat COVID-19 patients instead of acting only as a space to alleviate pressure on New York's hospital system as the state reported 600 new deaths and 8,600 additional cases.  Photo by Stefanie Reynolds/UPI | License Photo

April 6 (UPI) -- The number of coronavirus deaths in the United States passed the 10,000 mark Monday, even as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said cases there were leveling off, a decline he attributed to intensive social distancing.

Though he strongly cautioned against getting complacent, Cuomo said it appears New York was at or nearing the apex of the caseload curve due to a slight drop in the daily number of coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths. He said the curve is plateauing, although at a very high level.

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"It could still go any way," he warned. "It is hopeful, but it's also inconclusive and it still depends on what we do."

New York reported about 600 new deaths and 8,600 additional cases Monday.

RELATED Shortages at hospitals hindering U.S. coronavirus fight, HHS report says

Nationwide, 366,614 people have been infected with the coronavirus and more than 10,783 have died, according to data tracked by Johns Hopkins University as of Monday evening.

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Cuomo said New York's healthcare capacity is at maximum capacity and cannot operate that way for much longer.

President Donald Trump, at Cuomo's request, approved the USNS Comfort to accept coronavirus patients, rather than act strictly as an overflow for non-COVID-19 patients.

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"That was not supposed to be for the virus at all and under circumstances, it looks like more and more we'll be using it for that," Trump said. "The ship is ready and if we need it for the virus, we'll use it for that."

Cuomo also extended statewide lockdown orders to keep schools and non-essential businesses closed until at least April 29.

Earlier, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio appeared at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and praised two companies at the industrial park for producing much-needed surgical gowns for front-line medical workers.

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Fashion designer Lafayette 148 New York and military equipment maker Crye Precision have been producing a reusable surgical gown and have enlisted workers at the naval yard to make 19,000 this week -- and as many as 320,000 by the end of April.

"It is is inspiring to see how quickly people figured out a way to do something that was needed and not just do it in a small way but do it in a very big way," de Blasio said.

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U.S. copes with COVID-19 pandemic

Bass Pro Shops marketing manager David Smith (R) carries a box of donated face masks into Mercy Health in Chesterfield, Mo., on May 13. The company is donating 1 million FDA-approved ASTM Level 1 Procedure Face Masks to healthcare workers and first responders working on the front lines of the pandemic. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

The mayor the city's hospitals expect to use 2.5 million gowns this week, adding, "We have to find more surgical gowns urgently."

New York City hospitals received 600,000 N95 industrial face masks from the federal government, de Blasio said, specifically thanking White House adviser Jared Kushner. He also reiterated a call for a "national enlistment structure" for medical personnel wishing to help in New York City and other treatment locations, saying the city will need 45,000 additional front-line health workers this month.

In Michigan, the death toll rose past 600 on Monday, with a total caseload approaching 17,000. Officials said 80 percent of the cases are located in the Detroit area's three counties of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said state healthcare providers are "running dangerously low" on personal protection equipment. The Beaumont Health system of hospitals, she said, will run out of N95 masks in three days and face shields will run out even sooner.

"We're making some progress, but we need more [protection equipment] to continue fighting the virus," she said.

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