New York, April 9 (IANS) New York’s “battle on the mountaintop” against coronavirus is raging, its death toll rose by a record number for a second consecutive day, hospitalisations are slowing and its curve is flattening as a result of social distancing efforts but 40 per cent of tests are still coming out positive in this US hotspot that has been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.
New York reported 779 deaths, a record number for the second consecutive day as the state experiences its peak death week.
“There’s still a significant amount of disease there and everyone needs to continue to follow the guidelines,” White House coronavirus co-ordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said at a briefing Wednesday.
Birx said that the New York metro area which includes northern New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island is still seeing 11,000 new cases per day and the positivity tests are in the 40 per cent range.
Based on data shared by the White House and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York State recorded 6,268 deaths by Tuesday. Its new cases rose by more than 500 Tuesday, down from nearly 1,000 daily for most of last week.
Cuomo confirmed that New York is at last “flattening the curve” of the outbreak but warned that the death toll will continue to rise as patients hooked up to ventilators for a few weeks begin to succumb to COVID-19.
New York’s virus death toll has surged past the number killed during the 9/11 terror attacks.
Birx cautioned Americans that those with asthma, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and renal disease “no matter what age” are susceptible to a worse outcomes and urged them to comply with social distancing guidelines currently in place till month end.
The number of cases are stabilising but micro epidemics in metro and rural areas continue in parallel, Birx said.
Birx said national health officials are “concerned” about many areas outside of New York.
Birx mentioned a few of those looming threats. New Orleans metro area is reporting 800 new cases per day, Detroit Metro Area 1400 cases per day, Chicago 1200 cases per day, Boston 1100 cases per day and Philadelphia metro area 1400 cases per day.
In stark contrast, Seattle has 350 cases per day and the Los Angeles metro area 800 cases per day with test positive rates in the 9 per cent range.
“So this really is the idea of what it takes, they have been continuously mitigating,” Birx said of the comparison between New York’s 40 per cent positive rate and the West Coast’s lower 9 per cent positive rate.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s foremost infectious diseases expert on the White House task force said social distancing measures are having an effect and Americans must not get “complacent”.
“We know now for sure that the mitigation that we have been doing is having a positive effect. But you don’t see it until weeks later.”
Social distancing as a mitigation tool, Fauci said, is “not only the only tool, it’s the best tool we have”.
Fauci has cautioned that COVID-19 is showing all the signs that it could hit on a seasonal cycle and that a vaccine is the ultimate gamechanger. According to him, the most aggressive timeline could deliver a vaccine in “12-18 months”.
(Nikhila Natarajan can be contacted at @byniknat)