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As US COVID-19 deaths near 10,000, N.Y. Gov. Cuomo, Dr. Birx hopeful spread could soon slow down

As US COVID-19 deaths near 10,000, N.Y. Gov. Cuomo, Dr. Birx hopeful spread could soon slow down
Posted at 4:54 PM, Apr 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-05 19:54:33-04

Although the number of US deaths related to COVID-19 is nearing 10,000, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University, there might be some signs of optimism.

As of Sunday evening, the United States has reported 9,562 COVID-19 related fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Sunday his state saw its first decline in the number of deaths related to COVID-19 over a 24-hour period. On Sunday, Cuomo said that 594 people in New York had died from COVID-19 related illnesses in the previous 24 hours, down from a figure of 630 from the day before.

More than 40% of all US deaths related to the coronavirus have been in New York.

"The number of deaths is up, that's the bad news," Cuomo said on Sunday. "It's 4,159 and we pray for each and everyone of them and their families. And that is up and that's the worst news. But, the number of deaths over the past few days has been dropping for the first time. What is the significance of that? It's too early to tell."

Rather than the peak of COVID-19 cases coming in a week or two in New York, Cuomo is hopeful that now is when it gets as bad as it gets for the state.

"I hope we're somewhere near the apex," Cuomo said. "Right, or with somewhere near the plateau. So I would hope that we don't need anywhere near that number of beds. That's the good news. The bad news is the number of beds doesn't really matter anymore. We have the beds. It's the ventilators, and then it's the staff. That's the problem."

One thing seems to be certain is that New York's COVID-19 spread isn't completely going away anytime soon, which means hospitals there could still face shortages in supplies, even if the worst has passed.

"We're running short on supplies all across the board," Cuomo said. "Hospitals that are accustomed to dealing with 60-day supply, 90-day supply. We're talking about two or three or four days supply, which makes the entire hospital system uncomfortable."

Columbia University's chairperson for the department of surgery agreed there may be signs that the upward slope is leveling off in New York.

"Epidemiologically speaking, we need to reach the point at which deaths and recoveries exceed new cases—the bent-to-broken curve," Dr. Craig Smith said. "The steadily positive slope we’ve watched for a month is grinding and relentless. Scanning the daily statistics for the NYP system I can squint, angulate the page, and see the hint of a suggestion that the new-case curve has flattened slightly over the past few days.

"A curve with zero slope will be a nice start, but the two-week per patient ventilatory support experience we’re confronting means we will still be waiting for our very large rabbit to move through the boa constrictor. But that seems a comparatively small price to pay, and I’ll fall to my knees and rejoice for a flat curve the moment we reach it."

There is also some good news out of Italy, which reported a decline in deaths related to COVID-19 on Sunday. Italy had its lowest COVID-19 related death rate in two weeks on Sunday. Italy reported 525 COVID-19 related deaths in 24 hours, down from a peak of 919 in one day on March 27. Since the spread of coronavirus began in earnest nearly six weeks ago, Italy has reported 15,887 fatalities, the most of any country.

Italy has been on a strict national lockdown since March 9, which has restricted travel and most business functions.

Dr, Deborah Birx, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said that seeing Spain's and Italy's figures see some decline should give Americans some optimism, assuming social distancing precautions continue.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci said now is not the time to let up, especially given the next week or two could bring about a surge of cases and deaths in the United States.

"We are struggling to get it under control, and that's the issue that's at hand right now," Fauci said on Face the Nation on Sunday. "The thing that's important is that what you see is increases in new cases, which then start to flatten out. But the end result of that you don't see for days, if not weeks, down the pike. Because as the cases go down, then you get less hospitalization, less intensive care, and less death."

Justin Boggs is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @jjboggs or on Facebook .