The number of confirmed U.S. coronavirus cases topped 1 million on Tuesday while Florida's governor met with President Donald Trump to discuss joining other states that have moved to ease restrictions in the face of an economy battered by the pandemic.
Governor Ron DeSantis visited the White House on a day when his state announced its highest single-day death toll from the coronavirus and two days before Florida's state-at-home order is due to expire. His state has not been hit as hard as some other states including New York, the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic.
"I mean, you go from D.C., Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois - you name it - Florida's done better," DeSantis said during a meeting with Trump, a fellow Republican.
"And I'm not criticizing those states, but everyone in the media was saying Florida was going to be like New York or Italy, and that has not happened because we understood we have a big, diverse state," DeSantis added, touting "a tailored and measured approach" that "did less damage to our state going forward."
About a dozen states were moving to restart their economies despite a lack of large-scale virus testing. Public health experts have warned that a premature rollback of social-distancing policies could cause a surge in new infections.
While the pandemic has not affected Florida as much as some other states, officials reported 83 new deaths and more than 700 new infections. The state has reported 1,171 COVID-19 deaths and 32,846 total cases.
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"Apparently Trump and DeSantis find it appropriate to slap each other on the back while Floridians struggle to stay safe during this pandemic and navigate a broken unemployment system," Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo said.
DeSantis and other governors are eager to lift stay-at-home orders issued to curb the spread of the virus because they have throttled the economy. The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits over the past five weeks soared to 26.5 million and Trump's economic adviser forecasting an unemployment rate of more than 16% for April.
More than 57,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus, with an average of about 2,000 a day this month, according to a Reuters tally.
The number of confirmed U.S. coronavirus infections passed 1 million and has doubled in 18 days. The actual number of U.S. infections is believed to be higher than the confirmed number of cases, with state public health officials cautioning that shortages of trained workers and materials have limited testing capacity, leaving many infections unrecorded.
About 30% of the American cases have occurred in New York state, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, followed by New Jersey, Massachusetts, California and Pennsylvania. The virus was first reported late last year in China and has spread worldwide. The earliest-known U.S. deaths were in February.
'Want to reopen'
The governors of some states, including New York, have put off easing restrictions out of concern they might fuel a second wave of infections.
"Everyone is talking about reopening. I get it," said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, adding any decision should not be made based on politics or emotions or in reaction to protests.
"We want to reopen, but we want to do it without infecting more people or overwhelming the hospital system," Cuomo told his daily briefing, adding that his state's death toll had grown by 335 in the last day while new hospitalizations dropped to a one-month low.
Cuomo laid out a plan to employ thousands of case investigators and other criteria for reopening his state. He announced the formation of an advisory board of 100 business, community and civic leaders to help steer the reopening.
Cuomo also criticized federal agencies, the intelligence community and the news media for failing to "blow the bugle" early enough, while arguing the primary responsibility did not lie with the states.
"Governors don't do global pandemics," he said.
Squadrons of U.S. Navy Blue Angels jets and U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds jets performed a joint flyover in the sky above New York City before heading over New Jersey and Pennsylvania in a tribute to frontline responders and essential workers fighting the pandemic.
The University of Washington's model, often cited by White House officials and state public health authorities, upwardly revised its projected U.S. coronavirus death toll to more than 74,000 people by Aug. 4, compared with its previous forecast of 67,000.
In another sign of the pandemic's impact on the functioning of the country, the U.S. House of Representatives will not return to Washington next week as planned, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said on Tuesday. Hoyer said House leaders received a warning from the chamber's physician that there is a health risk to lawmakers amid a still-rising number of infections in the U.S. capital.