NEW YORK (Reuters) – More than 160,000 people in the US have died from the coronavirus pandemic, almost a quarter of the total worldwide, according to a Reuters tally on Friday. The country is debating whether the schools can reopen in the coming weeks.
FILE PHOTO: A pedestrian wearing a protective mask crosses the street during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Los Angeles, California, the United States, Aug. 6, 2020. REUTERS / Mario Anzuoni / File Photo
The country recorded 160,003 deaths and 4.91 million cases, the highest number in the world.
Public health experts have been raising concerns for weeks that Americans are reluctant to wear masks and maintain safe social distances in some areas.
Coronavirus deaths are increasing in 23 states and cases are increasing in 20 states, according to a Reuters analysis of data for the past two weeks compared to the previous two weeks.
Per capita, the United States ranks 10th in the world in terms of both cases and deaths.
Friday's dismal milestone marks an increase of 10,000 deaths in nine days in the United States.
Many of them died in California, Florida, and Texas, the three largest US states for total cases. While new infections appear to be on the decline in these states, new outbreaks are emerging from coast to coast.
Dr. Deborah Birx, lead coordinator for the White House's coronavirus response, warned of worrying increases in testing rates, which were positive in several cities including Boston, Chicago, Detroit and Washington.
In Massachusetts, hailed as one of the most effective containment strategies in the country, Governor Charlie Baker reduced the maximum number of outdoor gatherings from 100 to 50.
Nearly 300,000 US citizens could have died of COVID-19 by December 1, University of Washington health experts said Thursday, although 70,000 lives could be saved if Americans were ruthlessly wearing masks.
Across the country, US officials, teacher unions, parents and students debated how schools can safely reopen.
President Donald Trump has urged states to resume personal tuition, saying the virus will "go away as things go", but health officials have been telling states with increasing numbers to be on the alert.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Friday that around 700 school districts in the state could reopen classrooms, but insisted that schools hold extensive consultations with teachers, students and parents beforehand.
In New York school districts, you can choose only distance learning, in-class learning, or a mix of both. Safety plans for reopened classrooms must first be approved by the state's Department of Health, Cuomo said.
"If you look at our infection rate, we are probably in the best position in the country right now," Cuomo told reporters. "If someone can open schools, we can open schools."
In New York City, where 1.1 million children attend the largest network of public schools in the country, Mayor Bill de Blasio has said student attendance will be limited to one to three days a week. Parents in New York City have until Friday to request distance learning for their children.
Chicago Public Schools, which make up the third largest school district in the country, reversed course this week, stating that students would stick to distance learning early in the school year.
Some states, including Florida and Iowa, require schools to offer at least some in-person learning, while the governors of South Carolina and Missouri have recommended reopening all classrooms.
Texas originally called for schools to be reopened, but has since allowed districts to apply for waivers as the state grapples with a growing number of cases. The Houston Independent School District has announced that the school year will practically start on September 8, but will shift to personal learning on October 19.
Reporting by Aurora Ellis and Maria Caspani in New York; Additional coverage from Jonathan Allen in New York; Edited by Lisa Shumaker and Howard Goller
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