The United States has surpassed the “grim” milestone of 100,000 coronavirus deaths.
The news comes as only half of Americans said they would be willing to get vaccinated if scientists are successful in developing a vaccine, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Centre for Public Affairs Research.
Josh Michaud, associate director of global health policy with the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington, said: “It is a grim milestone. It’s a striking reminder of how dangerous this virus can be.”
Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, issued a stern warning after viewing video showing Memorial Day crowds gathered at a pool party in Missouri.
He said: “We have situation in which you see that type of crowding with no mask and people interacting. That’s not prudent and that’s inviting a situation that could get out of control. Don’t start leapfrogging some of the recommendations in the guidelines because that’s really tempting fate and asking for trouble.”
After months of lockdowns in countries around the world, places have begun reopening in stages. Mediterranean beaches and Las Vegas casinos laid out plans to welcome tourists again. Churches began opening up. And people restless at being cooped up indoors for weeks have started venturing outside in droves, often without practising safe social distancing or wearing protective coverings.
Summertime is already a time when more people head outdoors. This year, it also means the national political conventions in the United States where the two major political parties anoint a presidential candidate.
The events generally draw thousands of delegates and others who converge for several days. Dr Fauci said it is too early to say whether this year’s conventions should be held as normal.
“If we have a really significant diminution in the number of new cases and hospitalisations and we’re at a level where it’s really very low, you might have some capability of gathering,” he said.
“But I think we need to reserve judgment right now, because we’re a few months from there. Hopefully we will see that diminution. If we don’t, then I would have significant reservation about that.”
And other public health experts warned that more death is in the offing.
“Despite the terrible losses seen and the many difficulties Americans have faced to date in this pandemic, we’re still probably only in the early stages,” said Josh Michaud, associate director of global health policy with the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington.
“In the US we could be looking at a long pandemic summer with a slow burn of cases and deaths. There’s also reason to be concerned about a new wave of infections in the fall. So, we’re definitely not out of the woods yet.”
Elsewhere, South Korea announced a spike in new infections and considered reimposing social distancing restrictions, revealing the setbacks ahead for other nations on the road to reopening. It reported 40 newly-confirmed cases – the biggest daily jump in nearly 50 days.
All but four of the cases were in the densely populated Seoul region, where officials are scrambling to stop transmissions linked to nightclubs, karaoke rooms and a massive e-commerce warehouse. All were reopened last month when social distancing measures were relaxed.
Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 5.6 million people and killed over 350,000, including about 170,000 in Europe, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University of government reports, which experts say does not show the entire scope of the pandemic.
The US has reached more than 100,000 deaths in less than four months.
US, President Donald Trump likened the coronavirus several months ago to the flu and dismissed worries that it could lead to so many deaths. The administration’s leading scientists have since warned that as many as 240,000 Americans could die in the country’s outbreak.
According to the AP-NORC poll, about half of Americans said they would get a Covid-19 vaccine if scientists working to create one succeed.
The poll found 31% simply were not sure if they would get vaccinated. Another one in five said they would refuse. Among Americans who say they would not get vaccinated, seven in 10 worry about safety.