US president Donald Trump has signed an executive order to prevent hoarding of vital medical supplies and personal protective equipment as the country for the first time registered over 130 deaths in a day due to coronavirus.
Till Monday, more than 43,700 confirmed cases of coronavirus were reported in the United States. Of these, over 10,000 were added in one day, according to Worldometer, a website which compiles COVID-19 cases. With 139 deaths, the number of fatalities crossed 550 by Monday night.
Signing the executive order, Trump said his government would take action against hoarding and excessive pricing of vital medical and personal protective equipment as well as supplies such as hand sanitisers and face masks.
“Very simply, we will not allow anyone to exploit the suffering of American citizens for their own profit,” he asserted, adding the Department of Justice will aggressively prosecute fraudulent schemes related to the pandemic.
New York State, in particular New York City, emerged as the hotspot of one of the worst public health crisis in the United States in recent memory. Nearly one in every two Americans infected by novel coronavirus are from New York City which reported 5,085 news cases on Monday taking the total to 20,875.
As many as 157 residents of New York, a city which has one of the highest concentration of people in the country, have died of coronavirus so far. Of the total deaths in the city so far, 43 were reported on Monday.
Health officials warned that COVID-19-related casualty figures in New York are expected to jump significantly in the coming days.
White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Deborah L Birx told reporters that New York City, the New York Metro area of New Jersey and parts of Long Island have an attack rate close to one in 1,000. This is five times of what the other areas are seeing.
“Through high throughput lab investigations we are finding that 28 per cent of the submitted specimens are from that area, whereas it is less than 8 per cent in the rest of the country,” she said.
“So to all of my friends and colleagues in New York, this is the group that needs to absolutely social distance and self-isolate at this time. Clearly, the virus has been circulating there for a number of weeks to have this level of penetrance into the general community,” Birx said.
President Trump told reporters at a White House news conference that New York along with other hotspots such as Washington State and California is the top priority for his administration.
“Essential medical supplies and emergency equipment are being rushed to New York.” he said, adding the Federal Emergency Management Agency is distributing eight million N-95 respirator masks and 13.3 million surgical masks across the country right now.
“Focusing on the areas with the greatest need, we have shipped 73 pallets of personal protective equipment to New York City and 36 pallets to the State of Washington. In the past 96 hours, FEMA has also received donations of approximately 6.5 million masks. We are focused on some of the hotspots,” Trump said.
He also announced that clinical trials for existing drugs that may prove effective against the virus will begin in New York.
“The federal government is working to help obtain large quantities of chloroquine. It will be a big game-changer. So, we will see distribution starting tomorrow (Tuesday) early morning in New York. I think a lot of people are going to be hopefully very happy with the results. We all will be watching it closely,” Trump told reporters.