[BBC] – The US has become the first country in the world to record more than 2,000 coronavirus deaths in a single day.
Figures from Johns Hopkins University show 2,108 people died in the past 24 hours while there are now more than half a million confirmed infections.
The US could soon surpass Italy as the country with the most coronavirus deaths worldwide.
But experts on the White House Covid-19 task force say the outbreak is starting to level off across the US.
Dr Deborah Birx said there were good signs the outbreak was stabilising, but cautioned: “As encouraging as they are, we have not reached the peak.”
President Donald Trump also said he expects the US to see a lower death toll than the initial predictions of 100,000 fatalities, adding: “We’re seeing clear signs that our aggressive strategy is saving countless lives”.
The US now has at least 18,693 deaths and 500,399 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins, which is tracking the disease globally. About half of the deaths were recorded in the New York area.
Italy has reported 18,849 deaths while globally more than 102,000 people have died with the virus.
Researchers had predicted the US death toll would hit its peak on Friday and then gradually start to decline, falling to around 970 people a day by 1 May – the day members of the Trump administration have floated as a possible date to start reopening the economy.
“I want to get it open as soon as possible,” Mr Trump said at a Good Friday briefing at the White House. “I would say without question it’s the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make.”
However, no action would be taken until the government knew the “country [was] going to be healthy”, he said. “We don’t want to go back and start doing it over again.”