The pandemic proved as relentless as the rain on Sunday, as the death count from the coronavirus continued to rise in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and larger plans for a safe reopening remained in flux.
An additional 4,800 cases were diagnosed in both states, and nearly a thousand people were being treated in Philadelphia hospitals.
Nationally, the one certainty remained uncertainty.
Americans should expect social-distancing measures to continue through the summer, White House Coronavirus Taskforce Coordinator Deborah Birx said, adding that the nation needs a “breakthrough” in testing to gauge the virus’ spread accurately. Top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said the United States must at least double its testing capacity before restarting the economy, up from the current 1.5 million to 2 million tests that are being conducted a week.
Governors in states where the numbers of new infections have been slowing are grappling with when to reopen, while health experts cautioned that the ability to test, trace, and isolate positive patients is crucial to managing the inevitable spike of infections that will follow.
“We’re going to move as one state,” Murphy said, “recognizing you’ve got density issues in the north that you just don’t have in the south.”
New Jersey needs additional money from federal lawmakers to recover, Murphy said, warning that while “we won’t go bankrupt” without it, the state will have to “gut the living daylights” out of essential jobs such as teachers and first responders.
An additional 3,730 New Jerseyans tested positive, officials announced Sunday, bring the total to 109,038. And 75 more deaths were reported, raising the toll to 5,938.
In New York state, officials announced 367 new deaths on Sunday, the lowest tally in almost a month, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke of a phased reopening that could start as soon as May 15.
The pandemic continued to produce odd, societal side effects:
This has already been the deadliest year for tornadoes since 2011, a major news story subsumed by the coronavirus. Gas prices have tumbled a dollar a gallon in Pennsylvania and 89 cents in New Jersey from a year ago, according to AAA, the result of people obeying government stay-at-home orders.
Pennsylvania and New Jersey casinos have lost millions in gaming revenues.
The Philadelphia Zoo, though closed by the pandemic, still picked a name for newly born sloth bear, “Keematee,” the Hindu word for “Precious,” selected by an on-line poll.
The Blue Angels and Thunderbirds flight teams plan to conduct a Tuesday flyover of New York City, Newark, Trenton, and Philadelphia to honor front-line COVID-19 workers, the Air Force and Navy announced, with the schedule to be released on Monday. People should stay home to watch, the military branches emphasized.
In Philadelphia, officials announced 237 new cases on Sunday, bringing the total to 12,566. Six more deaths were added, raising the city toll to 472. About half of those fatalities were in long-term care facilities.
Across Pennsylvania 1,116 more people tested positive for a total caseload of 41,165, and 1,550 people have died, state officials said. Deaths in nursing and personal-care homes account for 61% of the total, according to government data.
“As we see the number of new COVID-19 cases continuously change across the state, that does not mean we can stop practicing social distancing,” Secretary of Health Rachel Levine said. “We must continue to stay home to protect ourselves, our families and our community.”
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