Sad record. The United States surpassed the 100,000 infected mark on Friday March 27, according to a count by Johns Hopkins University. At that date, they already had nearly 15,000 more cases than Italy and 20,000 more than China.
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The death toll, however, remains lower in the United States than in these two countries, with a total of 1,544 coronavirus-related deaths. The death rate from the disease in the United States, based on the number of cases reported, is 1.5%. It is 10.5% in Italy.
“We have performed more tests than any other country in the world and our capacity continues to grow”said US President Donald Trump on Friday March 27 at a press conference from the White House.
New York as an epicenter
The epicenter of the epidemic in the United States is located in New York – the state has recorded more than 500 deaths and nearly half of all American cases – where hospitals are overflowing.
“We are witnessing an increasing number of cases, hospitalizations, ICU admissions, patients requiring artificial respirators”Thomas Tsai, Harvard professor of public health, told AFP. “And unfortunately, the death rate will follow this trend. It’s just that it will take several days or weeks. “
Public health experts say the peak of the epidemic has not yet reached the United States, but there are several reasons why the number of cases of Covid-19 disease has already exploded there.
When Donald Trump played down
At the very beginning of the epidemic, President Donald Trump was accused of downplaying its severity, saying that a local spread of the virus was not “Inevitable”, going against several opinions of health officials. The government initially refused to lift restrictions that would have allowed states to develop their own tests. The first available were sent to the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.
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The CDC then sent defective tests to states, adding to the delay. It was not until February 29, the date of the first death in the United States, and more than a month after the first reported case, that the government lifted the restrictions. The private sector then also took action.
“If we had been able to trace the contacts that the infected people had, we could perhaps have found many more cases quickly, and isolated the places of high spread”, Dr. Gabor Kelen, director of the department of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University, told AFP.
US officials have sought to defend themselves, repeating that tests developed by South Korea – seen as an example in terms of mass detection strategy – sometimes produce false positive results.
New York State has emerged as the epicenter of the epidemic in the United States, with nearly 45,000 cases and more than 500 dead Friday, numbers that are rapidly changing. The neighboring states of New Jersey, California, Washington, Michigan and Illinois follow, with concentrations in large cities, such as New York.
Arm wrestling with General Motors
Now aware of the seriousness of the situation, Donald Trump engaged in a showdown with General Motors, invoking a Korean War law on Friday to force him to produce artificial respirators, essential in the fight against coronavirus. “GM was wasting time”Trump wrote in a brief statement expressing his exasperation at the American automaker with whom he said negotiations were dragging on.
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This exceptional measure is based on the “Defense Production Act” which allows the federal government to mobilize the private industrial sector for the security of the country. Many elected Democrats have been calling on the President for several days to take the plunge to allow the United States to face this unprecedented health crisis. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has been calling on the White House for several days to provide it urgently to deal with the peak of the epidemic, which he says will take place in three weeks.
The decree allows the Minister of Health to rely on this rarely used law to require General Motors “Accept, carry out and prioritize federal contracts for respirators”. Explaining his decision, Donald Trump warned the private sector. “We will not hesitate to use the full authority of the federal government to deal with this crisis”, he hammered, while, the day before, he was still minimizing the need for respirators.
For their part, GM and Ventec Life Systems, a manufacturer of medical devices, announced Friday an agreement to manufacture artificial respirators, without however giving the slightest indication on the volumes envisaged.
The first copies, approved by the Federal Medicines Agency (FDA), will be delivered from April, the two companies said. To try to silence any controversy and respond to presidential criticism, GM has assured that it would not make a profit on this production and that it would be satisfied with the reimbursement of its costs.