US COVID-19 deaths near 150,000 amid calls to shut down country

The death toll from COVID-19 in the United States has neared 150,000 with daily deaths continuously passing 1,000.

The death toll from COVID-19 in the United States has neared 150,000 with daily deaths continuously passing 1,000, while some health experts are calling for a shutdown to contain the surging pandemic.

   The best thing for the nation is not to reopen as quickly as possible, it is to save as many lives as possible, over 150 prominent U.S. medical experts and health professionals have said in an open letter addressed to the Trump administration, members of Congress and state governors.

   Reopening before suppressing the virus is not going to help the economy, they added.

   The United States has reported more than 4.1 million COVID-19 cases with over 146,000 deaths, which are far higher than those in any other country or region, according to the latest tally by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.

   According to the CSSE, New York state has reported the highest death toll of 32,608 in the country. California, Florida and Texas emerged as new epicenters of coronavirus infection in the country, as the death toll rose to 8,408, 5,777 and 4,990, respectively.

   Other states with more than 5,000 fatalities include New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, the CSSE data showed.

   "Hospitalization data was highly erratic this week, but what we did see is alarming," according to a new report of The COVID Tracking Project.

   Deaths are rising three weeks behind cases, which suggests a very difficult few weeks ahead for the United States, said the report.

   "Of all the nations in the world, we've had the most deaths from COVID-19. At the same time, we're in the midst of 'reopening our economy,' exposing more and more people to coronavirus and watching numbers of cases -- and deaths -- skyrocket," the experts said in the letter.

   "Right now we are on a path to lose more than 200,000 American lives by November 1st. Yet, in many states people can drink in bars, get a haircut, eat inside a restaurant, get a tattoo, get a massage, and do myriad other normal, pleasant, but non-essential activities," said the letter.

   On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump urged schools across the country to reopen as long as they can practice good hygiene and social distancing.

   The White House is asking Congress to pledge 105 billion U.S. dollars to schools as part of the next coronavirus stimulus bill, he said.

   Trump and his administration are pressuring schools to reopen in the fall, threatening to withhold federal funding from schools that do not comply.

   However, few Americans want to see their local schools reopen for in-person instruction as usual or even with minor adjustments, said a new poll released on Wednesday.

   Eight percent of Americans say their local K-12 schools should open for in-person instruction as usual and 14 percent think schools can reopen with minor adjustments, the survey, conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, showed.

   According to the poll, 46 percent of Americans believe major adjustments are needed and 31 percent say schools shouldn't open at all, while a majority of adults are concerned that sending students back to school would cause a surge in new infections in their community.

   Over 20 states have paused or partially reversed reopening efforts, raising uncertainty over the prospect of economic recovery.

   Noting that the premature reopening of the U.S. economy has exacerbated the pandemic, Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist at accounting and consulting firm RSM US LLP said, "it has become increasingly clear that there will not be a meaningful domestic or global economic recovery until an effective coronavirus vaccine regimen is in place."  

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