New York state suffered another quick and brutal rise in the number of coronavirus cases on Tuesday as officials raced to make more hospital beds available and the World Health Organization said the United States could become the next epicentre of the pandemic.
New York City, home to more than 8 million people, had 157 deaths and some 15,000 cases of COVID-19, nearly one-third the U.S. total on Tuesday, despite imposing strict limits on travel, socializing and work.
'If you ask the American people to choose between public health and the economy, then it's no contest. No American is going to say accelerate the economy at the cost of human life,' the New York Governor, Mr. Andrew Cuomo, said at a Manhattan convention centre that was being converted into a 1,000-bed temporary hospital.
Mr. Cuomo's remarks were a rebuke to the President, Mr. Donald Trump, who pressed his case on Tuesday for re-opening the U.S. economy by mid-April, saying lockdowns should be more targeted to spare businesses as much pain as possible.
The WHO said on Tuesday that the US had the potential to become the global epicentre of the pandemic, citing a 'very large acceleration' in coronavirus infections.
The expected need for hospital beds in New York state at the peak of the outbreak has spiralled to 140,000, Mr. Cuomo said, compared with 110,000 previously projected. Only 53,000 beds are said to be available now.
The rate of infection is now doubling every three days in New York and the worst of the outbreak, known as the apex, could arrive in 14 to 21 days, putting huge pressure on health services, Mr. Cuomo said.
Nationwide, COVID-19, which broke out late last year in Wuhan, China, has infected nearly 50,000 people and killed 640, with more than a quarter of the deaths in New York state.
The California Governor, Mr. Gavin Newsom, who has warned that the nation's most populous state would also soon be desperately short of hospital beds, has closed parking lots at state-owned beaches and parks after seeing surfers and others disregarding stay-at-home rules.
The Illinois Governor, Mr. J.B. Pritzker, said he had told Mr. Trump his state needed 'millions of N95 masks and hundreds of ventilators just in the near term' and that the President had promised help.
'There has been some talk over the last 24 hours by some about who this nation might be willing to sacrifice to COVID-19, for the sake of our economic interests. Well, in case there's any doubt in your minds, I'm not willing to sacrifice anyone,' Mr. Pritzker said.