Death toll in the United States from the coronavirus pandemic has topped 5,000, with a six-week-old baby becoming one of the youngest known victims.
At about 02:35 GMT on Thursday, 5,116 people had died in the US, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University, which came on the same day the country set a one-day record of 884 people killed in 24 hours.
Among the latest US fatalities was the six-week-old baby who was taken to a Connecticut hospital late last week.
“Testing confirmed last night that the newborn was COVID-19 positive,” the state’s Governor Ned Lamont tweeted on Wednesday. “This is absolutely heartbreaking.”
The US death toll is lower than those of Italy and Spain but above the 3,316 recorded in China, where the pandemic first emerged in December.
According to Johns Hopkins University the US leads the world in the number of cases of the new coronavirus, with 215,417.
President Donald Trump, who had earlier downplayed the pandemic’s effect, on Wednesday said: “We’re going to have a couple of weeks, starting pretty much now, but especially a few days from now, that are going to be horrific.”
Last Sunday, senior US scientist Anthony Fauci issued a cautious prediction that the novel coronavirus could claim 100,000 to 200,000 lives in the country.
Confirmed coronavirus infections around the world approached one million on Thursday as the pandemic spread at a “near-exponential” rate.
Half the planet is under some form of lockdown as governments struggle to tamp down the virus.
New York hardest hit
As hot spots flared around the US in places like New Orleans and Southern California, the nation’s biggest city of New York was the hardest-hit of them all.
The statewide death toll from the coronavirus doubled in 72 hours to more than 1,900, with bodies loaded onto refrigerated morgue trucks by gurney and forklift outside overwhelmed hospitals.
More than 80,000 people have volunteered as medical reinforcements in New York, including recent retirees and healthcare professionals taking a break from their regular jobs.
A navy hospital ship has docked in the harbour, a convention centre has been turned into a hospital, and the tennis centre that hosts the US Open is being converted to one as well.
Those arriving to help have found a hospital system near its breaking point.
“It’s hard when you lose patients. It’s hard when you have to tell the family members: ‘I’m sorry, but we did everything that we could’,” said nurse Katherine Ramos of Cape Coral, Florida, who has been working at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.
“It’s even harder when we really don’t have the time to mourn, the time to talk about this.”