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More public facilities closed as COVID-19 cases top 4,600 in U.S.

(Xinhua)    14:38, March 17, 2020

A pedestrian wearing a face mask walks past the closed New York Public Library in New York, the United States, March 15, 2020. Due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19, many public places in the city were closed as a precaution. (Photo by Michael Nagle/Xinhua)

NEW YORK, March 16 (Xinhua) -- The number of COVID-19 cases in United States has topped 4,600 as of Monday night, an increase of more than 1,000 in the past 24 hours, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

A total of 85 deaths have been reported, more than half of which are from the state of Washington. And the state of New York has reported 10 deaths and California 7, according to the center.

U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday that the United States could be coping with COVID-19 by July or August and the country's economy "may be" heading toward a recession.

"Well, it may be," Trump said in a press conference at the White House while responding to a question about whether the country's economy is heading toward a recession.

However, he predicted growth would bounce back strongly.

"We're not thinking in terms of recession. We're thinking in terms of the virus," he said. "Once we stop, I think there's a tremendous pent-up demand both in terms of the stock market, in terms of the economy," he noted.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 2,997.1 points, or 12.93 percent, to 20,188.52. The Dow's breathtaking drop on Monday was the biggest since the Black Monday crash on Oct. 19, 1987 when the blue-chip index lost more than 22 percent.

The president also released guidelines calling for people to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people and to steer clear of eating and drinking at bars and restaurants.

Also at the briefing, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the guidelines would apply for 15 days.

Fauci stressed that the new measures would help stop the spread of COVID-19, despite some inconvenience they might incur.

"I say it over and over again: When you're dealing with an emerging infectious diseases outbreak, you are always behind where you think you are," he said.

Governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut announced on Monday that the three northeastern states would restrict public gatherings and close all non-essential businesses to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.

Effective from 8 p.m. EST Monday (0000 GMT Tuesday), the states will ban gatherings of 50 people or more, including private parties. Restaurants and bars will be limited to only takeout or delivery orders. Movie theaters, bars, gyms and casinos will all close.

"When states can work together well, it makes all the difference in the world," said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at a joint media call with his fellow governors of New Jersey and Connecticut.

"We have agreed to a common set of rules that will pertain in all of our states, so don't even think about going to a neighboring state because there's going to be a different set of conditions," he noted.

"With all we are seeing in our state, and across our nation and around the world, the time for us to take our strongest, and most direct, actions to date to slow the spread of coronavirus is now," said Governor of New Jersey Phil Murphy.

"We have shared interests, and a patchwork of closures and restrictions is not the best way forward. I know that because of this collaboration, we will save lives," said Ned Lamont, governor of Connecticut.

Cuomo again criticized the federal government for its lack of action and coordination in countering the pandemic, saying that it has been "behind from day one on this crisis."

"States, frankly, don't have the capacity or the power to make up for the federal government," he added.

Also on Monday, Cuomo signed an executive order directing all schools in New York State to close on Wednesday for two weeks, an action that will ensure consistency and uniformity across the state in instructional time for this school year.

"Every district will be required to submit a plan to ensure children of healthcare workers and first responders have access to child care so these closures do not strain our hospitals and that children who depend on school meal programs continue getting the support they need," said the governor.

New York City has already closed all public school on Monday until at least April 20, which was ordered by Mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday.

Cuomo also issued an executive order on Monday allowing the state to strengthen hospital capacity of handling the potential influx of COVID-19 patients.

The state government will organize the National Guard and work with building unions and private developers to find existing facilities that can be converted to medical facilities, with the goal of creating an additional 9,000 beds, according to the governor.

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(Web editor: Liang Jun, Bianji)

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