New York(ANN)-The COVID-19 epidemic in the US is worsening sharply as the federal government approved major disaster declarations for New York, California and Washington states, and the situation in Washington DC worsened, with local police shutting down streets to stop mass gatherings.
Chinese experts warned on Monday that the confirmed cases in the US are very likely to surpass those of China in April, making the US a new epicenter of the worldwide pandemic.
The major economic engines and science and technology center of the US were all seriously impacted, and the unemployment rate could be higher than during the Great Depression era in the 1930s, with the wrong stimulus policy could lead to hyperinflation, and social instability is likely to emerge, Chinese experts said.
US Vice President Mike Pence said on Saturday that more than 195,000 people in the US have been tested for the virus, and as of Saturday, the reported number of infected cases reached 35,224, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center of John Hopkins University, showing that at least 18 percent of those being tested were confirmed to have contracted the disease.
The data released by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was much lower at 15,219, and the number was updated on Friday.
“Such a high percentage is horrifying, making us wonder if there might be at least 100,000 Americans who had been already infected but had not yet been tested,” Mei Xinyu, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times on Monday.
In the first half of April, the confirmed cases in the US would exceed the overall number of confirmed infections in China, Mei predicted.
Yuan Hongyong, vice dean of the Institute of Public Safety Research of Tsinghua University, said he forecasts that the current number of infections in the US has already surpassed 100,000, even 500,000, given that the previous data was not accurate and updated.
“And the number in the US could reach millions,” he said.
The confirmed numbers are spread all over the US, and are expected to surge to 500,000 to 600,000 in the next two months, Song Qinghui, a Shenzhen-based economist who closely watches the pandemic situation, told the Global Times on Monday.
“About 60 percent of Americans don’t have $500 in savings, which could severely affect the country’s epidemic control work,” Song said, warning that without drastic measures, the daily new cases could surge to as high as 600,000.
US President Donald Trump on Sunday declared that a major disaster exists in Washington State, and on Friday he made the same declaration in New York, according to the White House website.
Trump also approved California Governor Gavin Newsom’s request Sunday to declare a major disaster in California and bolster California’s COVID-19 emergency response efforts. This means the major economic engines of the US in the East and West coasts are all suffering serious pandemic disasters.
Lü Xiang, a research fellow on US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times on Monday that making such declarations might have a very limit effect on containing the outbreak as the federal government can issue only financial policies to assist states, rather than sending thousands of professional medical teams to reinforce local hospitals like what China had done in Hubei Province, the hardest-hit location in China.
The White House said the Major Disaster Declaration makes federal funding available to state, tribal and local governments for emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, and makes funding available for crisis counseling for impacted individuals.
“This is like throwing money to a group of people who get lost in the desert. Money is not what they need at this moment. The problem in the US is the shortage of materials and lack of quarantine efforts to cut off human-to-human infection,” Lü said.
Until now, measures taken by both the federal government and the states are still oriented to saving the economy but do very little to quarantine infected people and cure patients, so it is very hard to predict to what extent these approaches could help the US control the outbreak, Lü noted.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a tweet on Monday that the city has one-third of the cases in the US and two-thirds of the cases in New York State. “This crisis is affecting our entire nation and New York City is its epicenter,” he said.
A New York resident named “Brown” told the Global Times that the government is “just fighting being racist by calling it ‘Wuhan coronavirus’ rather than taking strong action,” without being fully prepared, and many people in the city don’t care. So retarded.”
Washington DC is also facing a worsening situation as the number of recorded coronavirus cases continued to spike Sunday, with Maryland and Virginia announcing their largest single-day increases, additional deaths reported and fresh warnings to stop mass gatherings, including visits to see the Tidal Basin’s cherry blossoms, the Washington Post reported on Monday.
The pandemic shows the US’ disunity, power struggle between parties, and divergence between the federal government and states, as well as the rift between the government and medical firms, said Diao Daming, a US studies expert at Renmin University of China in Beijing.
“Unfortunately, these will become obstacles for the US to overcome the challenge, and even make Americans pay an unnecessary price,” Diao noted.
Economy and unemployment
The worsening pandemic in the US is expected to cause more pain for the country’s economy as major financial institutions forecast declining GDP and employment rates. Morgan Stanley said the US GDP would fall 30 percent in April to June, Bloomberg reported on Sunday, while the unemployment rate would reach 12.8 percent. Goldman Sachs said the world economy would contract by about 1 percent this year, which would be worse than the 2009 financial crisis.
Bloomberg noted that such predictions raised fears of a depression, especially when the world has not fully recovered from sluggish economic growth. Some observers even predicted that as the major US economic engines have all been hit hard, the unemployment rate could rise to 30 percent, which is higher than during the Great Depression era in the 1930s.
Diao said, “It would not be a surprise for the US if a great depression happens.”
Lü noted that the US government is taking wrong measures to cure its sick economy by increasing stimulus spending. But because of the low demand in the market, this could cause serious hyperinflation, and the US dollar will be weakened as well.
Due to the virus spread in the city and the growing fears over an escalation, the New York Stock Exchange announced it wouldtemporarily shut its floor on Monday, the first time in 228 years. The disaster-like scenes also remind local people about 9/11, an event two decades ago which forever reshaped the city and the world.