As the US becomes the new epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, New York’s governor has issued an urgent appeal for medical volunteers amid a “staggering” number of deaths in his state, saying: “Come help us in New York, now.”
NY Governor Andrew Cuomo’s call came as the state’s death toll climbed by more than 250 in a single day to a total of more than 1200 victims, most of them in the city.
So far there have been more than 2900 deaths and some 160,000 confirmed cases in the US, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
“There is no American who is immune to this virus,” Mr Cuomo said on Monday (local time).
He ordered a lockdown for all non-essential businesses across New York state 11 days ago, leaving just grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential operations open. All non-solitary outside activities, such as basketball and other team sports, were banned.
Most of New York City has ground to a halt since, but the escalating emergency is rising daily. There are estimates one million health workers are needed to tackle the crisis.
In an emotional image of hope on Monday, a 1000-bed hospital ship used after the September 11 attacks made its way up the Hudson River and a convention centre was converted into a 2900-bed hospital in just three days.
“This is like adding another hospital here in New York City,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “The nation has heard our pleas for help.”
But he acknowledged the city needed to triple its hospital bed capacity by May.
Pictures also showed a small field hospital being erected in tents in the city’s famous Central Park.
Across the US, 163,429 people have tested positive to COVID-19. That is almost 50,000 more than Italy and 70,000 more than in Spain.
The virus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, has torn through New York with frightening speed. The first known infection in the state was discovered on March 1 in a healthcare worker who recently returned from Iran.
“We’ve lost over 1000 New Yorkers,” Mr Cuomo said. “To me, we’re beyond staggering already. We’ve reached staggering.”
The spike in deaths in New York was another sign of the long fight ahead against the global pandemic, which is filling Spain’s intensive care beds to capacity and shutting millions of Americans inside.
The virus is spreading globally even as the crisis in China, where the outbreak began in December, eases.
More than 235 million people – about two of every three Americans – live in the 33 states where governors have declared statewide orders or recommendations to stay home.
In California, officials put out a similar call for medical volunteers as coronavirus hospitalisations have doubled in the past four days and the number of patients in intensive care tripled.
Addressing Americans from the White House, President Donald Trump said the next 30 days would be crucial.
“Challenging times are ahead for the next 30 days and this is a very vital 30 days,” Mr Trump said.
“The more we dedicate ourselves today, the more quickly we will emerge on the other side of the crisis.”
The World Health Organisation’s emergency chief Dr Michael Ryan warned against letting up on tough containment measures.
Three-quarters of a million people worldwide have become infected with COVID-19 and more than 37,000 have died, according to a count by Johns Hopkins University.
The US has reported more than 160,000 infections and more than 2900 deaths.
New York City remains the nation’s worst hotspot but New Orleans, Detroit and other cities are also reporting alarming clusters.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the US government’s top infectious disease expert, warned smaller cities were likely about to see cases take off as they had in New York.