By Agence France-Presse
New York, the epicenter of America’s coronavirus infections, appeared to have passed the peak of the outbreak on Sunday, as President Donald Trump clashed with state governors over ending lockdowns.
The United States has so far recorded more than 746,000 coronavirus cases and 40,000 deaths, far more than any other nation.
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.”
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.”
“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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.