US Surgeon-General Jerome Adams has told Americans to brace themselves for “the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives” because of the coronavirus pandemic.
It comes as the US begins one of its most critical weeks yet in the escalating coronavirus crisis with the death toll exploding in New York, Michigan and Louisiana.
New York, the hardest-hit state, reported on Sunday that it had nearly 600 new deaths, for a total of 4159 deaths and 122,000 total cases.
Bodies of victims of COVID-19, the flu-like respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, were stacked in bright orange bags inside a makeshift morgue outside the Wyckoff Heights Medical Centre in Brooklyn, according to photos provided to Reuters.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said new hospitalisations had fallen by 50 per cent and, for the first time in at least a week, deaths had fallen slightly from the prior day, when they rose by 630.
But he cautioned that it was not yet clear whether the crisis in the state was reaching a plateau.
“The coronavirus is truly vicious and effective at what the virus does,” Mr Cuomo said. “It’s an effective killer.”
US Surgeon General Jerome Adams warned on Fox News on Sunday that hard times were ahead but “there is a light at the end of the tunnel if everyone does their part for the next 30 days”.
“This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives, quite frankly. This is going to be our Pearl Harbour moment, our 9/11 moment, only it’s not going to be localised,” he said.
“It’s going to be happening all over the country. And I want America to understand that.”
Elsewhere in the US, places such as Pennsylvania, Colorado and Washington, DC, are starting to record rising deaths.
The White House coronavirus task force has told Americans it is not the time to go to supermarkets or other public places.
Some governors have called for a national order to stay at home, while most states have imposed their own orders on residents to try to slow the spread of the virus in the United States.
Dr Adams called on state governors who had not yet imposed such orders to do so, even if they were comparatively shorter.
“If you can’t give us a month, give us what you can. Give us a week. Give us whatever you can to stay at home during this particularly tough time when we’re going to be hitting our peak over the next seven to 10 days,” he said.
“There is a light at the end of the tunnel if everyone does their part for the next 30 days.”
More than 321,000 people in the US had tested positive for the coronavirus and more than 9100 had died by early Monday (Australian time), according to a Reuters tally.
However, a few churches held large gatherings on Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week in Christian churches.
“We’re defying the rules because the commandment of God is to spread the gospel,” said Tony Spell, pastor at the Life Tabernacle megachurch in a suburb of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
He has defied state orders against assembling in large groups and has already been hit with six misdemeanours.