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NEW YORK (AP) — The coronavirus outbreak could kill 100,000-200,000 Americans, the U.S. government's top infectious-disease expert warned Sunday as smoldering hotspots in nursing homes and a growing list of stricken cities heightened the sense of dread across the country.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made the dire prediction of fatalities on CNN, adding millions in the U.S. could become infected.
By midafternoon, the U.S. had more than 135,000 infections and 2,300 deaths, according to the running tally kept by Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases is thought to be considerably higher because of testing shortages and mild illnesses that have gone unreported.
Worldwide, more than 710,000 infections were reported, and deaths topped 33,000, half of them in Italy and Spain, where hospitals are swamped and the health system is at the breaking point.
New York State — where the death toll closed in on 1,000, up by more than 200 from the day before — remained the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, with the vast majority of the deaths in New York City. However, spikes in infections were recorded around the country, not only in metropolitan areas but in Midwestern towns and Rocky Mountain ski havens.
The virus is moving fast through nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other places that house elderly or otherwise vulnerable people.
Since the U.S. saw its first major outbreak of the coronavirus earlier this month — centered at a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington — a stream of facilities have battled infections among residents and staff.
A week ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 147 nursing homes in 27 states had patients with COVID-19. The problem has only worsened since.
In Woodbridge, New Jersey, an entire nursing home relocated its residents after two dozen were confirmed infected and the rest were presumed to be. In Louisiana, at least 11 nursing homes, largely in the New Orleans area, have reported cases. In Mount Airy, Maryland, a death linked to the virus was recorded in a home where 66 people were confirmed infected.
Residents' loved ones are being kept away to try to slow the spread of the virus.
Dr. Craig Smith, who heads the surgery department at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, said the hospital will probably be forced into "apocalyptic scenarios" in the coming weeks in which ventilators and intensive care unit beds will need to be rationed.
"Yesterday tried my soul," he wrote in an online posting.
In India, a lockdown covering the country's 1.3 billion people has put untold numbers out of work and left many families struggling to feed themselves. Tens of thousands in New Delhi were forced to flee their homes, with no way to pay the rent, journeying back to their native villages.
Though the U.S. leads the world in reported cases, five other countries have higher death tolls: Italy, Spain, China, Iran and France.
Italy reported more than 750 new fatalities Sunday, bringing the country's total to nearly 10,800. However, the number of new infections showed signs of easing, with officials expressing cautious optimism that the most severe shutdown in the industrialized West is showing results.
Italy's civil protection agency said more than 5,200 new cases were recorded in the last 24 hours, the lowest number in four days, for a total of almost 98,000 infections.
Spain moved to tighten its lockdown and ban all nonessential work as it hit another daily record of almost 840 dead. The country's overall official toll was more than 6,500.
Egypt shut its beaches as cases in the Mideast surpassed 50,000. Police in the Philippines stepped up arrests of quarantine violators, and more tourists were evacuated from Mount Everest and the Indonesian island of Bali.
Poland is considering delaying its May 10 presidential election. Russia ordered borders to close today, Moscow all but confined its 12 million residents to their homes, and the head of the Russian Orthodox called on believers to stay away from churches and pray at home instead.
About 150,000 people have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins.
President Donald Trump on Saturday backtracked on a threat to quarantine New York and neighboring states amid criticism and questions about the legality of such a move. However, the CDC issued a travel advisory urging all residents of New York City and others in New York state, New Jersey and Connecticut to avoid all nonessential travel for 14 days.
As others tightened controls, China continued to ease restrictions, following the ruling Communist Party's declaration of victory over the coronavirus.