The city that never sleeps falls silent as coronavirus holds New York in its grip

Alarm in the White House as confirmed cases soar to around 5pc of the worldwide total

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A woman wearing a mask walks the Brooklyn Bridge in the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak
A woman wears a mask as she crosses Brooklyn Bridge. More than 30,000 people in New York state have tested positive Credit: Getty

New York has become the centre of America’s coronavirus outbreak with confirmed cases soaring and a major shortage of hospital beds expected, triggering alarm in the White House.

More than 30,000 people in New York state have tested positive for the virus, accounting for half of all known cases in America and around five per cent of the worldwide total. 

The number has doubled since the weekend, partly thanks to increased testing, raising concerns that the state’s hospitals are ill-prepared as they brace for further rises.

Projections suggest 140,000 hospital beds will be needed to cope with the surge in patients but just 53,000 are in place. The state is also looking to triple its number of ventilators. 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says coronavirus hospitalisations are higher than projected Credit: Getty

Andrew Cuomo, the New York governor whose daily press conferences are being carried on US-wide TV news channels, spelled out the stark statistics on Wednesday. 

“Now is the time to be aggressive and do things you've never done before,” he said, warning that hotels, dormitories and former nursing homes may be used to create extra hospital beds. 

Mr Cuomo, a Democrat, said he thought the number of foreign travellers New York attracts and the closeness with which people live in the city helped explain why the state has far more cases than others in America. 

But he also offered a note of optimism. “Our closeness makes us vulnerable ... But it’s true that your greatest weakness is also your greatest strength,” Mr Cuomo said. 

He added: “The closeness is that New York humanity that I think exists nowhere else. The closeness is what makes our sense of community.” 

New York city alone accounts for around 18,000 of the state’s coronavirus cases. Yesterday whole swathes of  “the city that never sleeps” had fallen quiet. 

In Times Square the lights were blazing but people were scarce. Ferries which normally shuttle crowds of commuters and tourists around the city of 8.4 million were like ghost ships.

A chart showing the most impacted states in the US affected by Covid-19.  Credit: New York state

Parks continued to be popular refuges, with joggers, cyclists and skateboarders out in force. But they stayed away from each other when their paths crossed. 

Mr Cuomo has urged New Yorkers not to play basketball and said he could close courts and playgrounds if people do not heed his call. 

The spike in New York has alarmed Donald Trump’s coronavirus taskforce, who late on Tuesday announced that anyone leaving the city must now self-quarantine for 14 days. 

In Washington, there was a breakthrough on Capitol Hill as senators from both sides of the aisle announced that a deal had been struck on a $2 trillion stimulus package.

The legislation amounts to the largest emergency economic bill in US history and is expected to be approved by both the Senate and the House expeditiously.

It includes unprecedented direct payments to Americans, with $1,200 being given to most adults and an extra $500 for each child in a household. 

Times Square stands mostly empty as as much of the city is void of cars and pedestrians over fears of spreading the coronavirus Credit: Getty

There will be $600 more a week in unemployment benefits for up to four months - a change the Democrats, who have held up votes on the legislation, were seeking. 

Some $367bn of loans for small businesses were included, as well as substantial sums for the airline industry, hospitals and state governments to help with the financial crunch. 

Mr Trump’s businesses - which include a string of hotels and golf courses - will be barred from benefiting from the schemes, as will those of all US congressmen. 

Mitch McConnell, the most senior Republican in the Senate, said: “At last, we have a deal. In effect, this is a wartime level of investment into our nation.” 

His Democratic counterpart, senator Chuck Schumer, said: “This is not a moment of celebration, but one of necessity.”

Meanwhile Mr Trump was facing a backlash from health experts, governors and victims of coronavirus relatives on his push to open up the US economy by Easter, on April 12. 

The US president doubled down on the suggestion at White House briefing on Tuesday, calling the Easter target his new “timeline” but insisting he would listen to science advisers. 

Dan Pacheco, whose cousin Dana Altman Fusco is currently quarantined after four members of her family died from coronavirus, told The Daily Telegraph that lifting US restrictions within weeks was a "terrible thing to do". 

"I think it's incredibly irresponsible and uninformed wishful thinking that is not backed up by science or data," said Mr Pacheco, a 49-year-old professor at Syracuse University in New York.

"If you look at what happened with my cousin's family, casual gatherings of people can result in extremely serious circumstances. 

“The horrible thing that is happening with the Fuscos was just one gathering. Imagine if you have a church full of people who tend to be older anyway. It's a terrible thing to do."

US President Donald Trump and Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases react to a question during a briefing in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House  Credit: Getty

Marc del Pacho, whose uncle died on Monday, 10 days after he contracted the virus, said that Mr Trump’s plan to reopen business by Easter was “reckless”.

“All of this happened because people can’t stay home,” Mr del Pacho, from Brooklyn, New York, he told The Telegraph.

“My opinion is simply that I think it would be hurting us by rushing to get things back to normal."

Dr Keith Martin, who heads the Consortium of Universities for Global Health, said that if restrictions were lifted prematurely“President Trump will have blood on his hands.”

Larry Hogan, a Republican who is Maryland governor and head of Governors Association, criticised Mr Trump’s “imaginary clock” in tackling the pandemic, while scores of Democratic governors went further, warning the president could endanger lives. 

But there were signs the public were siding with Mr Trump, with a Gallup poll finding 60 per cent of respondents approved of his handling of the coronavirus crisis compared to 38 per cent who disapproved. 

Mr Trump shared messages written by other users on Twitter saying the media was showing “Trump Derangement Syndrome” in some of its coverage of the crisis.