The USA has overtaken Italy with the world’s highest coronavirus death toll – more than 20,000 victims – as president Donald Trump considers when to re-open the country.
New York is faring the worst, with more infections than any country, while CNN reports more that 700 members of the New York fire service have tested positive for COVID-19.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said deaths were stabilising but at a “horrific rate” with more than 700 daily deaths for five days.
Mr Trump, seeking re-election in November, has said he wants life to return to normal as soon as possible.
He says the decision will be the biggest he has ever had to make as public health experts warn the death toll could spike to 200,000 over the summer if stay-at-home orders are lifted after 30 days.
The sweeping restrictions on movement aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 disease carry their own economic and public-health cost, Mr Trump says.
“I’m going to have to make a decision, and I … hope to God that it’s the right decision,” he told reporters.
“It’s the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make.”
Mr Trump said the facts would determine the next move.
Asked what metrics he would use to make his judgement, he pointed at his forehead.
“The metrics right here, that’s my metrics,” he said.
The US has seen its highest daily death tolls to date in the epidemic with roughly 2000 deaths a day reported for the last four days in a row.
Italy has the second most reported deaths at 19,468 and Spain is third with 16,353.
The US has five times the population of Italy and nearly seven times the population of Spain.
Globally, there have been more than 1.6 million confirmed cases, with the death toll surpassing 106,000.
The current federal guidelines run until April 30. The president will then have to decide whether to extend them or start encouraging people to go back to work and a more normal way of life.
Mr Trump said he would unveil a new advisory council next week that will include some state governors and will focus on the process of reopening the US economy.
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits in the last three weeks surpassed 15 million, as weekly new claims topped six million for the second straight time last week.
The government has said the economy purged 701,000 jobs in March.
That was the most job losses since the Great Recession and ended the longest employment boom in US history after it started in late 2010.