The US death toll from the coronavirus has eclipsed Italy's for the highest in the world at more than 20,000 as Chicago and other cities across the Midwest braced for a potential surge in victims and moved to snuff out smouldering hot spots of contagion before they erupt.
With the New York area still deep in crisis, fear mounted over the spread of the scourge into the nation's heartland.
The New York Times reports the latest death toll is 20,110 - with as many as 2000 people now dying each day.
Twenty-four residents of an Indiana nursing home hit by COVID-19 have died, while a nursing home in Iowa saw 14 deaths. Chicago's Cook County has set up a temporary morgue that can take more than 2,000 bodies. And Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been going around telling groups of people to "break it up."
The outbreak's center of gravity has long since shifted from China to Europe and the United States, which now has by far the largest number of confirmed cases, with more than half a million, and a death toll higher than Italy's count of nearly 19,500, according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.
The death rate - that is, the number of dead relative to the population - is still far higher in Italy than in US, which has more than five times as many people. And worldwide, the true numbers of dead and infected are believed to be much higher because of testing shortages, different counting practices and concealment by some governments.
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About half the deaths in the United States are in the New York metropolitan area, where hospitalisations are nevertheless slowing down and other indicators suggest social distancing is "flattening the curve" of infections and staving off the doomsday scenarios of just a week or two ago.
New York state on Saturday reported 783 more deaths, for a total over 8,600. Governor Andrew Cuomo said the daily number of deaths is stabilising "but stabilising at a horrific rate."
"What do we do now? We stay the course," said Cuomo, who like other leaders has warned that relaxing restrictions too soon could enable the virus to come back with a vengeance.
With authorities warning that the crisis in New York is far from the over, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city's 1.1 million-student school system will remain closed for the rest of the academic year. But Cuomo said the decision is up to him, and no such determination has been made.
In the Midwest, pockets of contagion have alarmed state and city leaders and led to stricter enforcement.
Nearly 300 inmates at the Cook County Jail have tested positive for the virus, and two have died. In Wisconsin, health officials expect to see an increase in coronavirus cases after thousands of people went to the polls during Wisconsin's presidential primary Tuesday.
Michigan's governor extended her state's stay-at-home order with new provisions: People with multiple homes may no longer travel between them.
And in Kansas, the state Supreme Court was scheduled to hear a dispute Saturday between Democratic Governor Laura Kelly and Republican lawmakers who overturned her executive order banning religious services and funerals with more than 10 people.
Worldwide, confirmed infections rose above 1.7 million, with over 100,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins. Close to 400,000 people have recovered.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older people and those with health problems, it can cause severe symptoms like pneumonia.