Healthcare workers wheel the bodies of deceased people outside the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York City on April 2, 2020. (Reuters photo)
The Trump administration on Thursday looked set to join local officials in advising Americans to wear masks when venturing out during the still-exploding coronavirus pandemic, as the US death toll rose by 1,000 in a single day for the first time.
As of Friday morning, the US death toll from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, stood at over 6,000, with more than 245,000 cases across all 50 states.
Global cases has surpassed 1 million, with more than 53,000 deaths.
White House medical experts have forecast that between 100,000 to 240,000 Americans could be killed, even if the sweeping lock-down orders are followed.
Morgues and hospitals in New York City, the epicenter of the US outbreak, bent under the strain on Thursday, struggling to treat or bury casualties, as New York stateís Governor Andrew Cuomo offered a grim prediction the rest of the country would soon face the same misery.
Do social distancing better, White House doctor tells Americans. Trump objects
Speaking at a White House briefing, Deborah Birx, a member of President Donald Trumpís coronavirus task force, said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would in the coming days add a recommendation on masks to guidelines on protective measures.
Trump, answering questions from reporters at the briefing, said only "if people want to wear them, they can."
The Trump administration, CDC and public health officials have all wavered on the issue of face masks since the pandemic broke out, initially telling healthy people such measures were unnecessary or even counter-productive.
Trump has faced criticism for playing down the outbreak in its initial stages. He said early on that the virus was under control and repeatedly compared it to the seasonal flu.
Last week he argued the time was right to re-open the US economy, complaining that the cure was worse than the problem and setting a goal of economic rebirth by Easter on April 12.
On Sunday he announced that he had ditched that plan fter Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, convinced him that projections showed more than 2 million people in the United States could die without further stringent measures.
An emergency stockpile of medical equipment maintained by the US government has nearly run out of protective garb for doctors and nurses.
Staff at a NY hospital dump protective gear in outdoor trash can after handling bodies
Funeral homes and cemetery directors described a surge in demand not seen in decades as cases surpassed 50,000 in the city.
Crematories extended their hours and burned bodies into the night, with corpses piling up so quickly that city officials were looking elsewhere in the state for temporary interment sites.
At Brooklynís Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, staff were seen disposing of gowns, caps and other protective gear in a sidewalk trash can on Thursday after loading bodies into a refrigerated truck.
Reuters was unable to confirm whether the bodies were those of coronavirus victims and hospital administrators could not be reached for comment. Operator Beatrice Pereira said, "They said that thereís no one available right now, that everyone here is busy saving lives."
A record 6.6 million in US seek jobless benefits amid coronavirus crisis
With an estimated 90% of Americans under unprecedented orders to remain at home, the US government reported that a record 6.6 million workers had filed for jobless benefits last week, double the previous all-time high set a week earlier.
The outbreak has spurred an unprecedented surge in Americans seeking government assistance. They have already outstripped applications for unemployment benefits that peaked at 665,000 during the 2007-2009 recession, during which 8.7 million jobs were lost.