President Donald Trump has expressed hope coronavirus cases were “levelling off” in US hotspots, saying he saw “light at the end of the tunnel”.
On Sunday, New York, the epicentre of the US outbreak, reported a drop in the number of new infections and deaths.
Mr Trump described the dip as a “good sign”, but warned of more deaths as the pandemic neared its “peak” in the US.
“In the days ahead, America will endure the peak of this pandemic,” Mr Trump said at his daily coronavirus briefing.
Deborah Birx, a member of the president’s coronavirus task force, said the situation in Italy and Spain, where infections and deaths have fallen in recent days, was “giving us hope on what our future could be”.
“We’re hopeful over the next week that we’ll see a stabilisation of cases in these metropolitan areas where the outbreak began several weeks ago,” Dr Birx said at the same news conference.
Earlier, the US surgeon general warned that this will be “the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives”.
“This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams told Fox News on Sunday.
The US has reported 337,274 confirmed infections and 9,619 deaths from Covid-19, by far the highest tally in the world.
What’s the latest in New York?
On Sunday, Governor Andrew Cuomo reported 594 new deaths giving an overall total of 4,159 deaths in New York, the state hit hardest by the coronavirus so far.
He said there were now 122,000 New York residents who had been infected. But he added that nearly 75% of patients who have required hospitalisation had now been discharged.
Patients requiring hospital are down for the first time in a week, and deaths are down from the previous day, he said.
There were 630 deaths reported in the previous 24 hours.
“The coronavirus is truly vicious and effective at what the virus does,” he told reporters in Albany, the state capital.
“It’s an effective killer.”
It’s too early to know if New York is currently experiencing its apex – the highest rate of infection that graphics behind Mr Cuomo referred to as “the Battle on the Mountain Top”.
He also said it was too early to know if cases would drop off quickly after the apex, or if they would decline slowly – and at a rate that would still overwhelm hospitals.
“The statisticians will not give you a straight answer on anything,” he said about the so-called “curve” – the chart that tracks the rate of infections.
“At first it was straight up and straight down, or a total ‘V’. Or maybe its up with a plateau and we’re somewhere on the plateau. They don’t know.”