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US Likely to Become 'Coronavirus Epicenter,' WHO Says


U.S. National Guard members stand at the Jacob Javits Center, March 23, 2020, in New York.
U.S. National Guard members stand at the Jacob Javits Center, March 23, 2020, in New York.

First it was China, then Italy and soon it could be the United States.

The World Health Organization says the U.S. could soon be the epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic even while President Donald Trump says he wants life in the U.S. to return to normal within weeks.

“They (the U.S.) have a very large outbreak and an outbreak that is increasing in intensity,” WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said Tuesday.

Harris said 85 percent of the newly confirmed cases Tuesday were in Europe and the United States, and 40 percent of those were in the U.S.

But Harris said the increase in testing in the United States could ease the growing number of cases.

As of late Tuesday, there were 46,500 coronavirus cases in the U.S. and 600 deaths.

The pandemic has bought the U.S. economy, which was roaring just a month ago, to a halt with businesses shuttered, amusements closed, and people told to stay at home.

President Trump said Tuesday he “would like to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” which is April 12. “We have to go back to work sooner, much sooner, than people thought,” the president told the U.S.-based cable news company Fox News.

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Some medical experts believe that is a bad idea.

The head of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, Dr. Thomas File, Jr., said easing social distancing and other restrictions by what he calls an “arbitrary date” while the coronavirus continues to spread “will lead to faster spread of the disease, overwhelm health care settings that continue to lack essential equipment, and result in deaths that could have been prevented.”

“The President should only set a date for lifting nationwide social distancing restrictions when the medical evidence indicates that it is safe,” File said.

While most Americans are under recommended lockdowns, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday ordered a complete three-week lockdown for the nation’s 1.3 billion people.

Modi warned that if India does not "handle these 21 days well, then our country... will go backwards by 21 years...We will have to pay the economic cost of this but [it] is the responsibility of everyone."

Italy, with more than 6,000 deaths is still the world’s coronavirus epicenter, but conditions are vastly improved in what had been ground zero – China.

Just four new locally transmitted cases were reported Tuesday.

Officials said healthy people in Hubei province, where the outbreak started in December will be able to leave the province after a two-month lockdown. The restrictions in all of Hubei province are expected to be lifted early next month.

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