New York passes COVID-19 'high point' as Trump, governors feud

New York passes COVID-19 'high point' as Trump, governors feud

Demonstrators place fake body bags outside Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles
Demonstrators place fake body bags outside Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles in protest against President Donald Trump's response to COVID-19 in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. (Photo: REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon)

NEW YORK: New York, the epicentre of America's COVID-19 infections, appeared to have passed the peak of the outbreak on Sunday (Apr 20), as President Donald Trump clashed with state governors over ending lockdowns.

The United States has so far recorded more than 746,000 COVID-19 cases and 40,000 deaths, far more than any other nation.

READ: US COVID-19 death toll rises as cases hit 750,000

READ: Hundreds protest against US COVID-19 rules

New York has borne the brunt of the virus, which has killed more than 18,000 people in the state, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.

"We are past the high point, and all indications at this point is that we are on the descent," state governor Andrew Cuomo told a press conference. 

"Whether or not the descent continues depends on what we do, but right now we're on the descent."

He added that "it's no time to get cocky and it's no time to get arrogant".

FILE PHOTO: New York governor Andrew Cuomo speaks as the USNS Comfort pulls into a berth in Manhatt
FILE PHOTO: New York governor Andrew Cuomo in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, US on Mar 30, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo)

New York's improving data came as the ongoing political battle between Trump and other state governors worsened again, with virus testing rates emerging as the focus.

Experts say extensive testing is crucial to a safe reopening of the economy, but some state governors said testing capacity fell far below the levels needed to avoid sparking new outbreaks of the virus.

Vice-President Mike Pence told Fox News Sunday that every US state had the ability to do enough testing "to move into phase one".

U.S. Vice President Pence addresses daily coronavirus response briefing at the White House in Washi
US Vice President Mike Pence addresses the daily COVID-19 task force briefing in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, US on Apr 15, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Leah Millis)

"Phase one" ends stay-at-home restrictions for healthy people, and allows restaurants, cinemas, sporting venues, places of worships and gyms to re-open with physical distancing.

But Virginia Governor Ralph Northam pushed back at the Republican administration's claims that there was enough testing, saying "that's just delusional".

FILE PHOTO: Virginia Governor Ralph Northam
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, accompanied by his wife Pamela Northam speaking during a news conference Richmond, Virginia, US on Feb 2, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/ Jay Paul/Files)

Gretchen Whitmer, governor of Michigan, said "we could double or even triple the number of tests that we're executing daily if we had the swabs and reagents". She called for more federal government help.

"I am right on testing. Governors must be able to step up and get the job done," Trump tweeted.

"DELUSIONAL"

With tens of thousands dead the battle lines are being drawn ahead of the November election, and Trump - who declared himself "a wartime president" during the pandemic - is seeking to reduce damage to his chances of holding onto office.

The anti-lockdown protests in several US cities in recent days attracted support from Trump, who in tweets called to "liberate" Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia - all states with Democratic governors - from stay-at-home orders.

USA protest
Protesters rally in downtown San Diego against California's stay at home order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. ARIANA DREHSLER/AFP

"Our president, obviously, has been unable to deliver on tests. Now he has chosen to focus on protests," Northam told CNN's State of the Union.

Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington state, also a Democrat, went further still: "To have an American president to encourage people to violate the law ... it is dangerous."

Regional leaders announce measures to combat the spread of novel coronavirus during a news conferen
Governor Jay Inslee gestures as he speaks next to King County Executive Dow Constantine during a news conference in Seattle, Washington on Mar 11, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Karen Ducey)

The Republican governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, said Trump's encouragement of protesters who picketed the colonial-era statehouse in Annapolis a day earlier was "not helpful".

"To encourage people to go protest the plan that you just made recommendations on, on Thursday, it just doesn't make any sense," Hogan, who chairs the National Governors Association, told CNN.

READ: Hungry, jobless Americans turning to food banks to survive COVID-19 pandemic

READ: US has most COVID-19 cases in the world

Cuomo announced this week that New York state's shutdown - which orders residents to stay at home except to exercise or perform essential business - has been extended until May 15.

In Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis allowed the reopening of some beaches as of this weekend.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis initially opposed allowing the cruise ships to dock, but changed his
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. (Photo: AFP/JOE RAEDLE)

Although fog shrouded the area around the state's Jacksonville Beach, those who turned out were "keeping their distance" from each other, Captain Rich Banks of Neptune Beach Ocean Rescue said.

"We'll see what happens when it really gets sunny and hot," Banks said.

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Source: AFP/ic

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