Coronavirus-related illnesses killed 630 people in the last day in New York state, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Saturday, in the worst 24 hours yet for the U.S. state hit hardest by the pandemic.
The novel coronavirus has now killed 3,565 people in the state and the situation is particularly worrying on Long Island, east of New York City, where the number of cases "is like a fire spreading," Cuomo told a news conference.
Health experts calculate that New York, home both to bustling Manhattan and hilly farm country stretching to the Canadian border, might be around a week away from the worst point in the health crisis which has killed about 60,000 people worldwide.
"We're not yet at the apex, we're getting closer ... Our reading of the projections is we're somewhere in the seven-day range," Cuomo said.
"It's only been 30 days since our first case," he said. "It feels like an entire lifetime."
The United States has the world's highest number of known cases of COVID-19, the flu-like respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.
White House medical experts have forecast that between 100,000 to 240,000 Americans could be killed in the pandemic, even if sweeping orders to stay home are followed.
New York City alone accounted for more than a quarter of the over 7,000 U.S. coronavirus deaths tallied by Johns Hopkins University. Hospitals and morgues in the city are struggling to treat the desperately ill and bury the dead.
Crematories have extended their hours and burned bodies into the night, with corpses piling up so quickly that city officials were looking elsewhere in the state for temporary interment sites.
Because of the risk of infection, many people with critically ill relatives in New York City are unable to see their loved ones in their final hours.
A resident at New York-Presbyterian hospital said he and his colleagues have made several death notification phone calls every shift this week.
"There's something sort of unquantifiably painful about telling a family their loved one died without letting them see them," he said.
An emergency stockpile of medical equipment maintained by the U.S. government has nearly run out of protective garb for doctors and nurses.
*This story had been edited by Ahram Online