NEW YORK (REUTERS) - New York officials pleaded with the Trump administration on Monday (March 16) to coordinate a national response to the coronavirus outbreak, saying patchwork measures enacted by state and local authorities were insufficient to confront a national emergency.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, both Democrats, called for bold federal action involving the US military and the US Army Corps of Engineers. The US death toll from the outbreak rose to 65 over the weekend, prompting fears that US hospitals will soon be overrun, similar to medical centres in Italy.
More than 30 US states have closed schools and at least five states have shuttered bars. Other localities have shut down cinemas, theatres and concert venues.
President Donald Trump, a Republican, declared a national emergency on Friday and has championed his government's response. Democratic leaders have criticised him for downplaying the crisis and issuing misleading or false statements.
"This should be a reality where the United States is put on a war footing, where the federal government mobilises all the resources necessary - and it begins with testing," Mr de Blasio told MSNBC.
"We're going to have to set up emergency ICUs in hospitals, not only all over New York City, all over America. We're going to need the United States military to come in with their substantial logistical and medical capacity," De Blasio said.
Mr Cuomo said the federal government needs to draw up uniform measures for all states to follow, rather than have each state act independently. He warned of a looming crisis as the US healthcare system will get overwhelmed with patients.
"In an emergency, someone has to take charge," Mr Cuomo told CNN. "You have to have consolidated centralised authority. It makes no sense for all these states to be doing different things." Many localities are following the recommendation of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention against large gatherings for two weeks.
At least 33 states have decided to close public schools, which combined with district closures in other states has shuttered least 64,000 US schools, according to Education Week.
There were further calls for urgency from within the Trump administration. US Surgeon-General Jerome Adams said it was important to react aggressively to combat the spread of the virus.
"We are at a critical inflection point in this country," Dr Adams said in an interview with Fox News.
"We are where Italy was two weeks ago in terms of our numbers and we have a choice to make as a nation: Do we want to go the direction of South Korea and really be aggressive and lower our mortality rates or do we want to go the direction of Italy?"
Italy is the second worst-hit country in the world after China, where the illness first emerged late last year, and the outbreak has shown no signs of slowing, with 24,747 cases and 1,809 deaths by Sunday.
South Korea has been widely praised for its strict measures to control the virus.
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on Monday he was preparing to bring an executive order to Mr Trump that would help relocate medical supply chains from overseas to the United States during the coronavirus outbreak.
Mr Navarro, in a CNBC interview, also said Mr Trump's push for a payroll tax cut would provide enough stimulus to help combat the economic damage from the coronavirus.