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U.S. COVID-19 death toll surpasses Italy as world's highest

Free warm vegetarian meals are distributed to the public at the Khalsa Care Foundation amid the coronavirus pandemic in in Los Angeles on Friday. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Free warm vegetarian meals are distributed to the public at the Khalsa Care Foundation amid the coronavirus pandemic in in Los Angeles on Friday. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

April 11 (UPI) -- The United States surpassed Italy Saturday in having the highest death toll from the coronavirus pandemic.

The United States has the most cases in the world at more than half a million, and the death toll has now reached 19,882 deaths after reporting the largest single-day death toll of 2,108, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

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Italy, which has more than 150,000 cases, now has the second-highest death toll at 19,468 deaths.

The United States is the first country worldwide to report more than 2,000 COVID-19 deaths in 24 hours.

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The first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported on Jan. 22.

The United States is likely close to its peak death toll, Dr. Chris Murray, a director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at University of Washington, who created the White House model for coronavirus cases, told CNN.

"We re-run the model, basically, almost every night -- and the new returns from different states are suggesting different peaks in different states, but at the national level we seem to be pretty much close to the peak," he said.

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The White House model projects about 61,500 deaths in the United States from COVID-19 by August if current social distancing restrictions remain in place until June 1.

Murray added that the numbers "don't look good," if states lift restrictions even a month earlier.

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

Meanwhile, government officials are taking actions to restrict Easter Sunday church services.

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In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear said that the state has seven churches that are "thinking about" in-person services despite social distancing restrictions.

In response, authorities plan to record the license plates of people showing up at such services to report them to the local health department, which will require them to stay 14 days in quarantine, Beshear said.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said residents should not go to in-person gatherings for Easter, including drive-in services, to stop the spread of the virus.

"If we allowed this in Louisville, we'd have hundreds of thousands of people driving around the city Sunday, and boy, the virus would just love that," Fischer said.

Two weeks ago, President Donald Trump said he wanted to ease restrictions by Easter Sunday, but he said Friday he wouldn't open things back up until the country was healthy again.

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Stay-at-home orders and social distancing restrictions have largely increased in states across the nation as the the number of cases and deaths rise.

A disaster declaration is now in place in all U.S. states with Trump approving one in Wyoming Saturday.

In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended the stay-at-home order until May 1 and included a new ban on traveling to another home within the state even to visit friends or relatives or go to a vacation home.

"Michigan has the third-highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country, and we're still on the upswing," Whitmer said in a statement. "We must continue to do everything we can to slow the spread and protect our families."

Michigan has 22,646 cases and 1,280 deaths, The New York Times database shows. New York has the highest number at 180,458 cases and has reported 8,627 deaths. New Jersey has the second- highest number of cases at 58,151 cases and 2,183 deaths.

In New York City, at least 343 homeless people have tested positive for the virus, a city official at a news conference with Mayor Bill de Blasio said Saturday.

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An official said that 20 of them have died.

Thirty-seven homeless people have been discharged from the hospital so far, 139 have been placed isolation in shelters, 81 are hospitalized and 35 are in self-isolation with families, an official added.

De Blasio announced Saturday that 6,000 homeless people will be moved out of shelters into hotels by April 20 amid the rise of the coronavirus spread in shelters.

"We think that is the right balance to strike to get people to stay safe," he said.

The mayor also announced that New York City's public schools, serving more than 1.1 million students from roughly 1,800 schools, will be closed the rest of the school year.

"This is not something in a million years I could have imagined having to do," de Blasio said.

Remote learning has continued though there have been ongoing challenges with about 114,000 homeless students in New York City and thousands of students lacking access to the Internet.

Within a few hours, Gov. Andrew Cuomo contradicted him, saying he doesn't have the authority to close schools and that action needs to be coordinated with surrounding school districts.

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"He didn't close them, and he can't reopen," Cuomo said.

School physical buildings closed in mid-March and transitioned to remote learning. At the time, officials were hopeful they could reopen on April 20.

Cuomo also explained why social distancing restrictions need to remain in place at a press briefing.

He went over projection models from the White House task force, which initially projected 1.5 million to 2.2. million deaths without mitigation and 100,000 to 240,000 deaths with mitigation in a press briefing Saturday. The national estimate has now been estimated down to 61,500.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevent also projected more than half the U.S. population would be infected with about 2.4 million to 21 million being hospitalized. There are 925,000 hospital beds in the country, he added.

Cuomo said the issue goes beyond politics.

"There is no political conspiracy theory, it's unchartered waters for all of us, so let's focus on the facts, let's focus on the data and let's make decisions that way," he said.

"We don't know if there's going to be a second wave or not," he added. "All of these things are yet to come."

Cuomo said there needs to be more testing and "it needs to be done faster." He also called more preparedness and the next federal stimulus bill should repeal the State and Local Tax deduction limit to help most affected areas.

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The SALT deduction places a $10,000 annual limit on federal deduction for state and local taxes.

The SALT provision was "gratuitous and "offensive," measure "to begin with," that "literally targeted New York," Cuomo said. "Repeal that if you really want to help places that are affected ... That's what you can do if you actually want to stop with the politics and help people."

"Reopening is a public health question and an economic question, and I am unwilling to divorce the two," he added. "You can't ask the people of this country to choose between lives lost and dollars gained. No one is going to make that quid pro quo. I understand the need to bring back the economy as quickly as possible. I understand people need to work. I also know we need to save lives, and we have, and one cannot be at the expense of the other."

He said that New York will gather experts to analyze "reopening" and a " possible second wave."

Not celebrating Easter "is different and hard," Cuomo said, but whether it's celebrated online or in person "it's the same message," which is "New York paused, the activity slowed down, you reflect more, you think more, which I think is important during this holy week."

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Texas has the 10th-highest number of cases across the nation at 12,746 cases and 264 deaths, according to the New York Times database.

Still, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Friday he will soon unveil strategies for reopening the economy.

"We will focus on protecting lives while restoring livelihoods," Abbott said. "We can and we must do this. We can do both."

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