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U.S. deaths from COVID-19 climb to over 10,000: Johns Hopkins

The death toll in New York, the state hardest hit by COVID-19, was "effectively flat" for the second day in a row, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in his daily news conference on Monday, but the U.S. as a whole saw the death toll from the pandemic climb to more than 10,000.

Death toll passed 1,000 just 11 days ago

A health-care worker wheels a patient on a stretcher into the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York City on Monday. (Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters)

The death toll in New York, the state hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, was "effectively flat" for the second day in a row, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in his daily news conference on Monday.

The overall death toll climbed by 599 to 4,758, while Cuomo expressed cautious optimism in the daily increase of new hospitalizations (358) and new admissions into intensive care (128).

Cuomo said there were some signs that the spread of the virus in New York has slowed, but cautioned: "It could still go any way."

The current strain on the state's blend of public and private hospitals in New York City, he said, was "unsustainable at this rate."

Not long after Cuomo spoke, the United States as a whole had reached a death toll of more than 10,000, according to the coronavirus resource centre at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. The U.S. has seen 10,335 die from COVID-19 causes, according to the tally, with national confirmed cases at more than 347,000.

It represents unwelcome exponential growth in mortality, with the U.S. having surpassed 1,000 deaths on March 26, 11 days ago.

'Peak death week,' admiral predicts

The Trump administration itself is girding for a tough week in the coronavirus battle, with hopes that the physical distancing measures and stay-at-home orders seen around the country will help the number of cases and fatalities level off next week.

"It's going to be the peak hospitalization, peak ICU week and, unfortunately, peak death week," Adm. Brett Giroir, a physician and member of the White House coronavirus task force, told ABC's Good Morning America on Monday.

Giroir raised particular alarm for the states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and the city of Detroit.

A nurse walks outside of Wyckoff Hospital in Brooklyn on April 6. On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the COVID-19 death rate in New York was 'effectively flat' for the past two days, but officials are still watching the state as they enter 'peak death week.' ( Bryan R. Smith/AFP/Getty Images)

A report from the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) released Monday indicates three of four U.S. hospitals surveyed are already treating patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. The report also says that hospitals expect to be overwhelmed as cases rocket toward their projected peak.

The report warns that different, widely reported problems are feeding off each other in a vicious cycle. Such problems include insufficient tests, slow results, scarcity of protective gear, the shortage of breathing machines for seriously ill patients and burned-out staffs anxious for their own safety.

"There's this sort of domino effect," said Ann Maxwell, an assistant inspector general at the DHHS. "These challenges play off each other and exacerbate the situation. There's a cascade effect."

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Last week, President Trump attempted to reduce that shortage by limiting the amount of equipment that would leave the country. Using his authority under the 1950 Defence Production Act, he announced the U.S. would stop exporting N95 protective masks to Canada and Latin America.

The move to block such masks, which are crucial in protecting health-care workers on both sides of the border from the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, outraged many officials in Canada.

But on Monday evening, 3M released a statement saying it had struck a deal with the Trump administration that would allow it to continue to supply N95 masks to other countries, including Canada. 

"As the pandemic unfolds in different stages around the world," the company said in a statement, "3M will continue to work with governments to direct respirators and other supplies to serve areas most in need."

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters following a meeting of his coronavirus task force at the White House on April 6. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

In dealing with shortages, many hospitals are responding by improvising their own solutions. Some explored buying face masks from nail salons due to the shortage of personal protective equipment, or PPE. Others have been trying to make their own hand sanitizer by blending ultrasound gel with alcohol from local distilleries.

Overtime hours and increased use of supplies are raising costs at the same time that many hospitals experience a revenue crunch because elective surgeries have been cancelled.

WATCH | Disputes over masks, equipment emerge:

Provincial and municipal leaders are criticizing U.S. President Donald Trump for attempting to halt exports of N95 masks to Canada. 4:52

Rural hospitals could be particularly vulnerable in the event of a significant caseload because of a limited number of beds and smaller staffs.

The head of a group representing for-profit hospitals said Monday that, on top of the problems in the report, facilities are finding that COVID-19 patients take long to recover.

"We are finding that their lengths of stay are much longer than comparable illnesses like pneumonia and flu, and they are requiring a lot of drugs," said Chip Kahn, president of the Federation of American Hospitals.

How to set priorities for the use of ventilators, breathing machines that can sustain life, is one of the most worrisome questions. Hospitals from Louisiana to New York and Michigan are already confronting projected shortages, the AP reported last week.

"Government needs to provide guidelines on ethics if health resources are limited and decisions need to be made about which patients to treat," a hospital official in Broward County, Fla., told the inspector general's office. "Are physicians liable for their decisions if that happens?"

Nurses at Harlem Hospital hold a rally demanding greater access to PPE to slow the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in front of the hospital in Manhattan on Monday. (Aleksandra Michalska/Reuters)

More than 90 per cent of U.S. residents are under some kind of stay-at-home order.

The exceptions are eight states, all with governors from Trump's Republican Party: Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. Georgia, which has recorded 6,600 cases and more than 200 deaths, ordered residents to stay home but then allowed some beaches to reopen.

In Washington, D.C., and other places, some people flouted the physical distancing guidelines over the weekend. Sunshine and warm weather brought hordes of people out to bike trails and open spaces near the Potomac River. While a number of people wore masks, some groups moved together in close proximity.

With files from Reuters

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