NYC virus deaths exceed 4,000, topping toll for 9/11 attacks

NEW YORK (AP) – New York City’s death toll from the coronavirus rose past 4,000 on Tuesday, eclipsing the number killed at the World Trade Centre on 9/11. In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson lay in intensive care, believed to be the first major world leader hospitalized with the virus.

The twin developments came even as the crisis seemed to be easing or at least stabilising, by some measures, in New York and parts of Europe, though health officials warned people at nearly every turn not to let their guard down. After 76 days, China finally lifted the lockdown on Wuhan, the city of 11 million where the outbreak began.

COVID-19’s toll in New York City is now more than 1,000 deaths higher than that of the deadliest terror attack on United States (US) soil, which killed 2,753 people in the city and 2,977 overall, when hijacked planes slammed into the twin towers, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field on September 11, 2001.

New York state recorded 731 new coronavirus deaths, its biggest one-day jump yet, for a statewide toll of nearly 5,500, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

“A lot of pain again today for many New Yorkers,” he said.

Vanderbilt playground in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park remains closed in New York. PHOTO: AP

But in an encouraging sign, the governor said hospital admissions and the number of those receiving breathing tubes are dropping, indicating that social distancing measures are succeeding.

And alarming as the one-day increase in deaths might sound, the governor said that’s a “lagging indicator,” reflecting people who had been hospitalised before this week. Over the past several days, in fact, the number of deaths in New York appeared to be leveling off.

“You see that plateauing – that’s because of what we are doing. If we don’t do what we are doing, that is a much different curve,” Cuomo said. “So social distancing is working.”

Still, six-foot social distancing has become impossible at times in the city’s subway system.

With service drastically reduced, essential workers are encountering some busy trains as they head to their jobs. Photos taken in Brooklyn showed riders sitting or standing within inches of each other, some not wearing face masks.

Across the US, the death toll neared 13,000, with close to 400,000 confirmed infections. Some of the deadliest hot spots were Detroit, New Orleans and the New York metropolitan area, which includes parts of Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut. New Jersey recorded over 1,200 dead, most of them in the northern counties where many residents commute into New York City.

US President Donald Trump trained his anger at the World Health Organization and threatened to freeze US funding for it, saying the international group had “missed the call” on the pandemic and that it was “very China-centric.”

Throughout his presidency, Trump has voiced skepticism toward many international organisations and has repeatedly heaped scorn on the WHO. In its most recent budget proposal in February, his administration called for slashing the US contribution to the WHO from an estimated USD122.6 million to USD57.9 million.

Trump suggested the WHO had gone along with Beijing’s efforts months ago to minimise the severity of the outbreak. The WHO has praised China for its transparency on the virus, even though some public health experts regard the country’s figures with suspicion.

“They should have known and they probably did know,” Trump said of WHO officials.

On Wall Street, a strong rally propelled by signs that the outbreak may be levelling off in some hard-hit parts of the world evaporated after the price of crude oil suddenly fell. Stocks ended the day slightly lower.

Elsewhere, Chinese authorities ended the lockdown on Wuhan, and tens of thousands of residents traveled in and out of the sprawling industrial city. Residents must use a cellphone app showing that they are healthy and have not been in recent contact with anyone confirmed to have the virus.

China, which officially recorded more than 82,000 infections and over 3,300 deaths, reported 62 new cases – 59 of them brought from outside the country – and two additional deaths yesterday.

In the US, Surgeon General Jerome Adams said that if Americans continue to practice social distancing for the rest of April, “we will be able to get back to some sense of normalcy.”