US approaches one million coronavirus cases as states loosen restrictions

America now has one third of world's cases of virus

FILE - In this April 22, 2020, file photo, President Donald Trump listens during a briefing about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, in Washington. After two months of frantic response to the coronavirus pandemic, the White House is planning to shift President Trump’s public focus to the burgeoning efforts aimed at easing the economic devastation. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
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Reported coronavirus cases in the US approached the one million mark on Monday, as several states began to loosen restrictions and slowly reopen.

US cases passed 976,000 by midday on Monday, with more than 55,000 deaths reported, figures from Johns Hopkins University showed.

The latest numbers translate to a third of global coronavirus cases and a quarter of world deaths.

But several US states loosened restrictions and were gradually reopening on Monday, including Alaska, South Carolina, Colorado, Oklahoma, Michigan, Mississippi and Georgia.

Georgia allowed non-essential businesses to open, angering public health officials and US President Donald Trump, who criticised the decision.

Back at the White House, the daily briefing was initially cancelled then reinstated by Mr Trump.

“Today we are not tracking a briefing,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told Fox News on Monday morning.

But about 1pm, Ms McEnany tweeted that Mr Trump would host a briefing at 5pm.

There has been widespread criticism of his remarks last Thursday suggesting that disinfectants could be injected to cure the virus.

Ms McEnany, asked if the president would clarify his comments, said the question had been “answered a dozen times”.

The White House coronavirus task force also cut back its meetings.

The team met only once at the weekend, calling it “a rarity” and a break from its daily meetings since it was assembled, CNN reported.

Mr Trump’s favourability ratings dropped to an average of 43 per cent, polling company Five Thirty Eight said, as the pandemic took a political and economic toll on the administration.

But on Monday, US stocks opened higher even as crude oil prices plummeted. The Dow opened up 0.5 per cent and the Nasdaq 0.9 per cent.

In New York, which still has the highest number of cases and deaths in the country, a self-swab test was announced and would be made available this week.

The state’s Democratic Party said it was cancelling its primary election on June 23 because of the pandemic. Other states have opted for mail-in vote.

The Democrats' presumptive presidential candidate Joe Biden continued to criticise the Trump administration for not doing enough in testing and economic disparities.

In a new campaign memo, the former vice president said: “We are still seeing a massive shortfall and extensive disparities between states in testing. That’s unacceptable.

"And those failures are in no small part due to the federal government mishandling and delaying the pandemic response.

"We are now several months into this crisis and this administration refuses to own up to the original sin of its failed response – the failure to test.”

Polls are giving a boost to the Biden campaign in swing states including Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin and Michigan.

But with the election six months away on November 3, the momentum and numbers could switch between the two candidates.