News Coronavirus Some US states look to re-open as toll passes 50,000
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Some US states look to re-open as toll passes 50,000

Georgia is one of a handful of US states taking the first steps towards loosening coronavirus restrictions. Photo: AP
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Governors in at least three US states have announced they will begin lifting restrictions aimed at curbing the coronavirus pandemic.

Georgia, Oklahoma and Alaska have taken the first tentative steps at reopening for business.

Gyms, hair salons, tattoo parlours and some other businesses were allowed to open their doors by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp on Friday.

Mr Kemp disregarded warnings from public health officials that relaxing restrictions could lead to more infections and deaths.

The southern US state has become a flashpoint in the debate over how quickly the country should return to work.

While the COVID-19 illness is killing thousands of Americans daily, stay-at-home policies have made millions jobless.

The moves to re-open come amid reports that coronavirus relief packages will see the US deficit mushroom to $US 3.7 trillion ($A5.7 trillion) in 2020, according to the latest projection from the Congressional Budget Office.

Atlanta hair salon co-owner Lester Crowell is reopening his business after 33 days.

“We’ve been hurting real bad,” he said.

“I had to dip into my own bank account to keep the lights on here.”

The US COVID-19 death toll, the highest in the world, topped 50,000 on Friday, having doubled in 10 days.

The number of Americans known to be infected surpassed 875,000.

Oklahoma was opening some retail businesses on Friday.

Florida started letting people visit some of its beaches last Friday, South Carolina began easing restrictions on Monday, and other states will relax guidelines next week.

Late on Thursday, Mr Trump sparked fresh confusion over the prospects for treating COVID-19, suggesting that scientists should investigate whether patients might be cured by ingesting disinfectant.

The comments prompted doctors and health experts to warn the public not to drink or inject disinfectant.

On Friday (local time), Mr Trump said his remarks were meant as sarcasm.

Asked about the 50,000 deaths and whether he felt any responsibility, Mr Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday: “I think we’ve done a great job.”

He pointed to early estimates that suggested the coronavirus could lead to at least 100,000 deaths in the US.

“We’re going to be, hopefully, far below that,” he said.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose state has been the worst hit by the coronavirus, said reopening the economy too early in any US state was a danger to others.

“Assume the virus got on the plane that night and flew to New York or flew to Newark airport. That has to be the operating mentality,” he told a news briefing.

According to a model maintained by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, which is used by the White House, hospitalisations in Georgia will peak next week.

Oklahoma, with far fewer cases and deaths than Georgia, began opening hair and nail salons, barber shops and other personal care businesses on Friday.

The IHME model predicts that Oklahoma already hit its hospitalisations peak on Tuesday and could loosen restrictions on June 17.

-with agencies