The United States on Friday become the first country to record more than 2,000 coronavirus deaths in one day, with 2,108 fatalities in the past 24 hours, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.
The US has now recorded 18,586 deaths and is closing in on the toll of 18,849 dead in Italy, which has seen the most fatalities so far in the global pandemic.
America is also approaching half a million confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 496,535 as of 8:30 pm (0030 GMT Saturday), an increase of 35,098 in the past 24 hours.
President Donald Trump on Friday said that his decision on when to reopen the US economy, shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic, will be the toughest he has ever taken.
“I’m going to have to make a decision and I only hope to God that it’s the right decision. But I would say without question, it’s the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make,” Trump told a press conference.
Trump, who faces a tight reelection in November, is keen to get the US economy back open after weeks of tough measures that shut down businesses and transport across the country to slow down the virus’ spread.
However, he also faces warnings that a premature opening would put lives at risk.
“I have to make the biggest decision of my life,” he said.
Trump on Friday said he will make an announcement next week on US funding to the World Health Organization, which he has recently threatened to cut.
“As you know, we have given them approximately $500 million a year, and we are going to be talking about that subject next week. We’ll have a lot to say about it,” Trump told a news conference at the White House.
He said he would make the announcement “sometime next week.”
Trump has gone on an offensive against the WHO, where Washington is the principal funder, accusing it of pro-China bias during the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, which began in Wuhan, China, last year.
The US State Department has homed in on what it says was the world health body’s failure to pursue an early lead on coronavirus out of Taiwan.
Taiwan, which has succeeded in limiting the virus to just five deaths despite the island’s proximity and ties with China, warned the WHO on December 31 of human-to-human transmission, Vice President Chen Chien-Jen has said.
China claims sovereignty over Taiwan, which rules itself, and has pressured international organizations like WHO around the world not to allow the island membership.
On Friday, China’s foreign ministry said the US comments were “fact-distorting” and politically motivated to shift blame for the pandemic, according to state-run news agency Xinhua.
WHO denies that it ever got an early warning from Taiwan about human-to-human transmission of the COVID-19 virus.