The United States has surpassed Italy as the country with the highest reported coronavirus death toll, recording more than 20,000 deaths since the outbreak began, according to a Reuters tally.
The grim milestone was reached as US President Donald Trump mulled over when the country, which has registered more than half a million infections, might begin to see a return to normality.
The Trump administration views 1 May as a target date for relaxing stay-at-home restrictions across the United States, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn said on Sunday.
He cautioned that it was still too early to say that target would be met.
“We see light at the end of the tunnel,” he told ABC’s This Week programme.
However, there were many factors to take into account in finally determining when it would be safe to lift restrictions.
Meanwhile in Spain, the country’s daily death toll from the coronavirus has risen by 619 after falling for three straight days, the government said.
The country has now recorded 16,972 deaths from Covid-19.
The US has seen its highest death tolls to date in the epidemic with roughly 2,000 deaths a day reported for the last four days in a row, the largest number in and around New York City.
Even that is viewed as understated, as New York is still figuring out how best to include a surge in deaths at home in its official statistics.
Public health experts have warned the US death toll could reach 200,000 over the summer if unprecedented stay-at-home orders that have closed businesses and kept most Americans indoors are lifted when they expire at the end of the month.
Most of the curbs, however, including school closures and emergency orders keeping non-essential workers largely confined to home, flow from powers vested in state governors, not the president.
Nonetheless, Mr Trump has said he wants life to return to normal as soon as possible and that the measures aimed at curbing the spread of the Covid-19 disease caused by the coronavirus carry their own economic and public health cost.
Speaking by telephone with Fox News yesterday evening, Mr Trump said he would make a decision “reasonably soon”, based on the advice of “a lot of very smart people, a lot of professionals, doctors and business leaders”.
He said “instinct” would also play a role.
“People want to get back, they want to get back to work. We have to bring our country back,” he said.
Mr Trump’s trade adviser, Peter Navarro, told Fox News that “purist medical professionals” who took the position that the only way to minimise loss of life was to shut down the economy and society until the virus was “vanquished” were “half right”.
He said “that will minimise the deaths from the virus directly,” but added that economic shocks also killed people, through higher depression and suicide rates and drug abuse.
“So that very tough decision this president is going to be making is to have to weigh the balance and figure out which path does more damage.”