Experts urge gradual reopening of U.S. as coronavirus nears peak

By Daniel Uria and Allen Cone
The United States is projected to be nearing the peak of the coronavirus outbreak on Easter Sunday, as federal health experts warned that a gradual approach is necessary when considering reopening the country. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
The United States is projected to be nearing the peak of the coronavirus outbreak on Easter Sunday, as federal health experts warned that a gradual approach is necessary when considering reopening the country. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

April 12 (UPI) -- Federal health experts on Sunday said the United States is nearing peak infection in the COVID-19 outbreak but urged a careful and gradual approach to reopening the country.

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn told ABC News' This Week that models show the United States is "very close to the peak," describing the global coronavirus pandemic as a fast-moving outbreak.


There were more than 560,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States and 22,105 people have died from the virus as of Sunday night after the United States surpassed Italy as the country with the highest death toll on Saturday, according to A total of 1,830 deaths were announced Saturday, which less than the the record 2,035 Friday.


On Sunday, the death toll dropped to 1,528 for a 7.4 percent gain. Only New England states, Massachusetts and Connecticut, and Pennsylvania posted two-digit gains,

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Around 43 percent of the deaths -- 9,385 -- are in New York, including an additional 783 Sunday for a 9.7 percent increase. The most deaths were 799 on Thursday. In addition,181,825 coronavirus cases have been reported.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo criticized the federal response to the outbreak.

"Some states, like Montana and Nebraska, are getting more than $300,000 in federal stimulus money per reported COVID-19 case. New York is the hardest-hit state and yet we are getting only about $12,000 per case," he wrote on Twitter. "We need a fair federal stimulus bill that is distributed by need."

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Speaking during a daily news conference, Cuomo said his state has a $10 billion to $15 billion deficit from spending on the pandemic.

"Nobody wants to pick between a public health strategy and an economic strategy, and as governor of this state, I'm not going to pick one over the other," he said. "We need a public health strategy that is safe, that is consistent with an economic strategy.


President Donald Trump had originally set Easter Sunday as a possible target for the U.S. economy to re-open before extending federal guidelines for social distancing through the end of April.

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When asked if Americans could expect to see businesses reopen as early as May 1, Hahn said it was too soon to tell.

"I have head from friends and colleagues round the world that people really do want to get back to a more normal life than what we've had the last several weeks, but we have to get the data as they come in, he said. "We have to look at what we know about this illness, what happened in other countries and put them into the situation."

Hahn also said that ramping up of diagnostic and antibody testing "will be necessary" as the country seeks to move forward.

Appearing on CNN's State of the Union, White House health adviser Anthony Fauchi said Americans could begin to see loosening restrictions as early as next month but said a "rolling reentry" is pivotal to decreasing the possibility of a resurgence of the virus.

"It is not going to be a light switch that we say, OK, it is now Jone, July or whatever, click, the light switch goes back on," said Fauci. "It's going to be depending where you are in the country, the nature of the outbreak that you have already experienced and the threat of an outbreak that you may not have experienced."


Neighboring New Jersey is second with 2,350 deaths, which is an increase of 167 announced Sunday after 251 were reported Saturday.

Gov. Phil Murphy said Sunday he won't be cutting back on social distancing guidelines soon in New Jersey.

"Any sort of an economic reopening or recovery depends first and foremost on a complete healthcare recovery," Murphy said on CBS's Face the Nation. "If we either transpose those steps or we start to get back on our feet too soon, I fear based on the data we're looking at we could be throwing gasoline on a fire."

The only other state in triple digits is Michigan with 1,487, including an additional 95 reported Saturday.

Among other hotspots, No. 4 Louisiana reported an additional 34 deaths to 840, No. 5 Massachusetts grew by 70 to 756, No. 6 Illinois added 43 for a 720 total, No. 8 Pennsylvania climbed to 561 with 60 more fatalities and No. 9 Connecticut, which had the biggest percentage gain,12.1 percent with 60 more deaths at 561.

The state of Washington, the original epicenter of virus in the United States, dropped to 10th place as 505 with 11 more deaths.


California is the most populous state with 40 million people but is seventh on the list with 44 additional deaths at 674.

No. 11 Florida, which has been of concern with health official because of its elderly population reported 15 more deaths to total 461.

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