Global cases of the coronavirus hit a new milestone of 2.5 million Tuesday, as key U.S. states continued a phased restart of their economies, even as the pandemic continued to take a toll on America.
Globally, deaths have surpassed 171,000, while in the U.S. that number jumped above 42,000 Tuesday — setting an average of 2,000 per day in the past several days. The world’s largest economy still accounts for more confirmed COVID-19 cases than any other country, with over 788,000 infected.
As some southern states push to reopen public spaces and some businesses with some social distancing limits, concerns linger about adequate infrastructure to continue monitoring the outbreak. In Georgia, for example, gyms, bowling alleys, barber shops and theaters will throw open their doors amid an acknowledged risk that cases there may rise.
Some officials seem to be banking on the concept of herd immunity, an effect that happens when a large segment of a population becomes immune to a disease, thereby helping to protect those who haven’t been sickened.
However, the World Health Organization recently downplayed the idea’s impact, saying globally the number of individuals with antibodies to the virus remains too low for it to be effective.
Meanwhile, more effort is being devoted to testing, as one California town runs a pilot on the potential to test all its residents for virus antibodies, while New York ramps up mass testing in the hard-hit state.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that while the state is far ahead, per capita, in testing, it is still hard pressed to provide adequate testing levels to justify relaxing restrictive stay-at-home orders that have shut down the state. Other governors have also pushed back on restarting without an ability to assess who’s been infected, or developed immunity.
“Here in west Michigan, we have not hit our peak yet,” Dr. Rob Davidson, an ER doctor, told Yahoo Finance on Tuesday. He added that he’s troubled by talk of reopening as the number of coronavirus cases are still growing.
“And in fact, just three days ago, we’re finally able to test every person who comes in with symptoms of COVID-19. That’s a new phenomenon now — three months after the first case. So, I’m extremely concerned with all the talk of charging ahead with reopening when we truly do not have a grasp of how many cases are actually out there.”
Amid a tussle with the Trump administration over testing resources, Gov. Larry Hogan circumvented the federal hold over supplies in the country and received 500,000 testing kits from South Korea, which has been widely praised for its aggressive COVID-19 response.
The debate has taken on added significance as the economic toll of widespread shutdowns pummel the economy. After days of criticism, the Senate reached a deal to provide nearly $500 billion more in relief to small businesses and hospitals, on top of a broad $2 trillion plan to contain the economic fallout from the pathogen.
Yet volatile stock markets tumbled anew on Tuesday, as a dramatic slide in oil — which is being hammered by falling global demand stemming from the crisis — soured investor sentiment.
WHO disputes Wuhan lab theory
The WHO addressed a controversy over the origins of the virus, which some have speculated came from a lab in Wuhan, the epicenter of the global outbreak.
The embattled agency, which has taken fire from President Donald Trump for being too close to China and slow to recognize the coronavirus’ threat, said the outbreak came from an animal, likely a bat.
“All available evidence suggests the virus has an animal origin and is not manipulated or constructed in a lab or somewhere else,” a spokesperson said.
—Yahoo Finance’s Adriana Belmonte contributed to this article.