The United States recorded 2,228 deaths related to the coronavirus pandemic over the past 24 hours, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University as of 8:30 pm Tuesday (0030 GMT Wednesday).
The number of fatalities was a sharp increase after two days in decline, and beat the previous high of 2,108 on April 10.
The outbreak has now claimed the lives of at least 25,757 people in the US, the most of any country.
But President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that swaths of the United States could lift coronavirus shutdowns “very soon” and said he could see “rays of light” on the horizon for the world’s largest economy.
Facing a tough reelection in November, the Republican president is eager to get the world’s biggest economy back on its feet as quickly as possible.
But a threat on Monday to invoke his “total” power to force state governors to follow his directives on reopening prompted an outcry.
“We don’t have King Trump, we have President Trump,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on CNN.
Equally combative, Trump responded on Twitter by likening skeptical governors to rebellious sailors in the movie “Mutiny on the Bounty.”
At his press conference Tuesday, Trump backpedalled, clarifying that governors would take the lead on when and how to ease the restrictions paralyzing the US economy.
“I’m not going to put any pressure on any governor to open,” Trump said.
The president indicated that numerous states with less dense populations could open “very, very soon, sooner than the end of the month,” while places like New York could take longer.
“We’ll open it up in beautiful little pieces,” Trump said.
The president had been expected to unveil a new task force on Tuesday for managing the national reopening. That did not happen.
Instead, Trump announced he would be talking to large groups of business leaders, Congress members and all 50 governors in conference calls this week.
“Our country has to get open and it will get open,” he said.
For weeks, Trump has veered between supporting a sudden, large-scale reopening and a cautious, case-by-case relaxation of mitigation measures.
In the end, he has bowed — often reluctantly — to advice from medical experts who argue that relaxing social distancing and allowing people back to work prematurely would spark a second wave of infections.
Reflecting the sense of instability, economic powerhouses California and New York — both led by Democrats — are developing their own reopening plans, insisting that Trump will not set the pace.
California’s Governor Gavin Newsom, who has joined forces with Oregon and Washington states to coordinate the transition, said he would not announce any concrete timing for at least another two weeks.
“We can’t get ahead of ourselves,” he said. “I don’t want to make a political decision that puts people’s lives at risk and puts the economy at even more risk.”
Talks are underway for eventual reopening of California restaurants, schools and businesses but many social distancing procedures are likely to be retained, including wider spacing at meal times and wearing of masks, he said.
“Normal, it will not be,” he warned.
On Monday, Trump had insisted that he can override state governors to determine the reopening schedule.
“When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total,” Trump said.
Trump’s claim — disputed by constitutional experts — took long-running confusion over who is in charge to a new height.
“If he ordered me to reopen in a way that would endanger the public health of the people of my state, I wouldn’t do it,” Cuomo told CNN.
Trump fired back on Twitter.
“A good old fashioned mutiny every now and then is an exciting and invigorating thing to watch, especially when the mutineers need so much from the Captain,” he tweeted.