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US virus toll tops 61,000; Trump says won’t extend social distancing

The US death toll from the coronavirus has topped 61,000 as the outbreak will soon be deadlier than any other epidemic in more than half a century in the virus-ridden country.

Deaths from the contagious respiratory illness (COVID-19) reached 61.000 on Thursday morning, while at least 1,040,488 people are infected with the novel coronavirus — a third of the global toll, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tally of cases.

The total number of confirmed cases has reached 3,204,705 with 227,847 deaths, worldwide.

According to a Reuters tally, the epidemic will soon be even deadlier.

The US worst flu season in recent years was in 2017-2018 when more than 61,000 people died, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The only deadlier flu seasons were in 1967 when about 100,000 Americans died, 1957 when 116,000 died and the Spanish flu of 1918 when 675,000 died, the CDC said. 

A daily average of 2,000 people died in April in the US, according to the Reuters tally, while the true number of cases is thought to be higher.

COVID-19 is expected to kill nearly 73,000 people in the US by August 4, compared with an April 22 forecast of over 67,600, according to the University of Washington’s predictive model.

The pandemic, which has also taken toll on the country’s economy, has brought Trump under scrutiny for his response to the health crisis and its economic impact.

The US president — facing reelection bid in November — said the federal government will not be extending its coronavirus social distancing guidelines once they expire on Thursday, even as the virus death toll is rising.

“They’ll be fading out because now the governors are doing it,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office as he met with John Bel Edwards, the Democratic governor of Louisiana.

Trump suggested that the virus will simply disappear “with or without a vaccine”, and that people need to go back to word.

“If you don’t have a vaccine, if the virus is gone, we are like we were before,” Trump said. “Having a vaccine would be a great thing, and I think we are going to get there in this case.”

“I want to get back with or without,” the president said, referring to ease coronavirus restrictions and reopen businesses.

“It’s going to go. It’s going to leave. It’s going to be gone. It’s going to be eradicated,” Trump added.

His remarks, however, contradict public health experts who warn that the virus will persist and that Americans will not be able to safely return to normal until the country has a vaccine.

A vaccine is not expected for another year or more, though.

Republicans ‘endangering’ lives of senate staff

Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said “if people on the front lines are willing to work during the pandemic, we should be as well.”

“We’ll practice proper safeguards in the wake of this and work safely in the Senate but get back to business. We’re not going to sit on the sideline” he told Fox News Radio.

Senate Democrat Chris Van Hollen accused McConnell of putting lives of Senate staff if he brings them back to work next week.

He said that “without effective safeguards in place, Mitch McConnell is endangering the lives of the staff who work there – including many of my constituents – and undermining regional efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.”

The number of cases is on the rise in the Washington DC region.

At least a half-dozen members of the US Congress had contracted the virus by the time lawmakers went into recess late last month, and over 30 others went into self-quarantine.

COVID-19 hits US black community disproportionately

A new report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about hospitalized Covid-19 patients in the state of Georgia finds that more than 80% of the patients were black, highlighting that significant racial disparities persist.

The report showed black Americans are more likely to be infected and to die of the novel coronavirus.

The CDC report included 305 hospitalized adults with Covid-19 in Atlanta. Data on race, which were available for 297 of patients, showed that 247 or 83.2% were black, 32 or 10.8% were non-Hispanic white, eight or 2.7% were non-Hispanic Asian or Pacific Islander, and 10 or 3.4% were Hispanic.

“It is critical that public health officials ensure that prevention activities prioritize communities and racial groups most affected by COVID-19,” the researchers wrote. 

“It is important to continue ongoing efforts to understand the reasons for these racial disparities, including the role of socioeconomic and occupational factors in transmission,” they wrote.

They called on public officials to “consider racial differences among patients affected by COVID-19 when planning prevention activities.”

However, Georgia has rolled back restrictions on businesses and retailers on Friday, raising concern among experts and advocates that the move will have a negative impact on people of color. 

Many black people have also said they would not open their business, unless they can come up with a plan to keep employees and customers safe.

Some black leaders said the move to end the restrictions is an attack on black people.

The state of Georgia reported at least 25,599 confirmed cases of infection as of Wednesday, along with 239 deaths, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

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