By MARINA VILLENEUVE and LORI HINNANT
New York City’s death toll from the coronavirus rose past 3,200 Tuesday, eclipsing the number killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11. In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson lay in intensive care, believed to be the first major world leader hospitalized with the virus.
The twin developments came even as the crisis seemed to be easing or at least stabilizing, by some measures, in New York and parts of Europe, though health officials warned people at nearly every turn not to let their guard down. After 76 days, China finally lifted the lockdown on Wuhan, the city of 11 million where the outbreak began.
At least 3,202 people have died in New York City from COVID-19, the city reported. The deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil killed 2,753 people in the city and 2,977 overall, when hijacked planes slammed into the twin towers, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, 2001.
New York state recorded 731 new coronavirus deaths, its biggest one-day jump yet, for a statewide toll of nearly 5,500, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
“A lot of pain again today for many New Yorkers,” he said.
But in an encouraging sign, the governor said hospital admissions and the number of those receiving breathing tubes are dropping, indicating that measures taken to force people to keep their distance from one another are succeeding.
And alarming as the one-day increase in deaths might sound, the governor said that’s a “lagging indicator,” reflecting people who had been hospitalized before this week. Over the past several days, in fact, the number of deaths in New York appeared to be leveling off.
“You see that plateauing — that’s because of what we are doing. If we don’t do what we are doing, that is a much different curve,” Cuomo said. “So social distancing is working.”
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said that if Americans continue to practice social distancing for the rest of April, “we will be able to get back to some sense of normalcy.”
“I want the American people to know there is a light at the end of this tunnel, and we feel confident that if we keep doing the right thing for the rest of this month, that we can start to slowly reopen in some places,” he said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Still, 6-foot social distancing has become impossible at times in the city’s subway system.
With service drastically reduced, essential workers are encountering some busy trains as they head to their jobs. Photos taken in Brooklyn showed riders sitting or standing within a few inches of each other, some not wearing face masks.
Across the U.S., the death toll topped 12,000, with around 380,000 confirmed infections. Some of the deadliest hot spots were Detroit, New Orleans and the New York metropolitan area, which includes parts of Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut. New Jersey recorded over 1,200 dead, most of them in the northern counties where many residents commute into New York City.
One lockdown exception in the U.S. was Wisconsin, which asked hundreds of thousands of voters to ignore a stay-at-home order to participate in its presidential primary Tuesday.
Lines were particularly long in Milwaukee, the state’s largest city and a Democratic stronghold, where just five of 180 traditional polling places were open. Many voters across the state did not have facial coverings in line with public health recommendations.
In Madison, city workers erected hard plastic barriers to protect poll workers, and voters were encouraged to bring their own pens to mark their ballots.
Worldwide, about 1.4 million people have been confirmed infected and over 79,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. The true numbers are almost certainly much higher, because of limited testing, different rules for counting the dead and deliberate underreporting by some governments.
For most people, the virus causes mild to moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. But for some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause pneumonia. About 300,000 people have recovered worldwide, by Johns Hopkins’ count.
One of the main models on the outbreak, from the University of Washington, is projecting about 82,000 U.S. deaths through early August, with the highest number on April 16.
Elsewhere around the globe, Chinese authorities ended the lockdown on Wuhan, allowing residents to travel in and out of the sprawling industrial city. Residents must use a cellphone app showing that they are healthy and have not been in recent contact with anyone confirmed to have the virus.
China, which officially recorded more than 82,000 infections and over 3,300 deaths, listed no new cases on Tuesday, though the country’s figures are regarded with suspicion by some public health experts.
In some European hot spots, as in New York, authorities saw signs that the outbreak was turning a corner, based on slowdowns in new deaths and hospitalizations.
In Spain, new deaths Tuesday rose to 743 and infections climbed by 5,400 after five days of declines, but the increases were believed to reflect a weekend backlog. Authorities said they were confident in the downward trend.
In Italy, the hardest-hit country of all, with over 16,500 deaths, authorities appealed to people ahead of Easter weekend not to lower their guard and to abide by a lockdown now in its fifth week, even as new cases dropped to a level not seen since the early weeks of the outbreak.
“Finally it seems we are beginning to see a lessening of new cases” after a plateau, said Giovanni Rezza, director of the infectious-disease division of Italy’s national health institute.
In France, the number of dead passed the bleak milestone of 10,000, climbing to more than 10,300, said Jerome Salomon, national health director.
“We are in the epidemic’s ascendant stage,” he said. “We have not yet reached the peak.” But he offered a glimpse of hope, saying the virus rate is ”slowing a little.”
To keep up social distancing, Paris banned daytime jogging just as warm spring weather settled in.