NEW YORK: US coronavirus cases topped 500,000 on Friday (Apr 10), according to a Reuters tally, although there are signs that Americans staying home was helping to curb new infections.
Confirmed US cases of the COVID-19 illness caused by the virus have been rising by 30,000 to 35,000 cases a day as testing becomes more available. Globally, there have been more than 1.6 million confirmed cases, with the death toll topping 100,000 on Friday.
The United States, now the pandemic's epicentre, became the first country to record more than 2,000 virus deaths in one day, with 2,108 fatalities on Friday according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.
With almost 18,600 deaths overall, the US is closing in on the 18,849 dead in Italy, which has the most fatalities so far in the pandemic.
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With many Americans celebrating the Easter holiday on Sunday, the top US infectious disease expert warned that it is too early to relax restrictions on Americans.
"Now is no time to back off," Dr Anthony Fauci said.
The social distancing guidelines have taken a toll on the US economy. Some economists are forecasting job losses of up to 20 million in April, raising questions about how long business closures and travel restrictions can be sustained. The Trump administration's top economic officials said on Thursday they believe the US economy could start to reopen for normal business in May.
Only Italy has more coronavirus deaths than the United States, with 18,849 fatalities reported on Friday, although it has a much smaller population. After a marked reduction from previous peaks, new infections have picked up in the past two days, frustrating hopes that the illness was in clear retreat.