The United States recorded nearly 1,500 deaths from the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, the worst 24-hour death toll globally since the pandemic began.
According to figures from Johns Hopkins University, 1,480 deaths were counted between Thursday morning and Friday morning, and the total number of people who have died since the start of the pandemic in the US is now 7,406.
It tops the record set by the US on the previous day with 1,169 deaths. The US also far has more cases than any other country in the world with more than 275,000, at least double that of Italy which has the second highest number.
It comes as Donald Trump advised all Americans to wear masks in public to protect against the virus over fears that the illness that has infected more than one million people worldwide may be spreading by normal breathing.
Mr Trump said the government recommendation for all 330 million Americans to wear non-medical masks in places such as grocery stores would last “for a period of time”, though he said that he would not wear one.
“It’s going to be really a voluntary thing,” Mr Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday. “You don’t have to do it and I’m choosing not to do it, but some people may want to do it and that’s OK.”
US Surgeon General Jerome Adams said the decision came because many people with the virus were showing no symptoms, but warned it was still vital to practice “social distancing” by maintaining space between people.
The advice came after Anthony Fauci, who is leading the US government’s scientific response, backed recent scholarship that found SARS-CoV-2 can be suspended in the ultrafine mist formed when people exhale.
Research indicates that “the virus can actually be spread even when people just speak as opposed to coughing and sneezing,” Mr Fauci told Fox News.
The National Academy of Sciences sent a letter to the White House on April 1 summarising recent research on the subject, saying that it is not yet conclusive but “the results … are consistent with aerosolisation of virus from normal breathing.”
Since the virus was first identified in China in late December last year, health experts have said it is primarily spread through coughing and sneezing.
The US recommendation will likely worsen an already severe shortage of masks in the United States and Europe, which both rely heavily on imports from China.
Trump urged Americans to “just make something” or use scarves, saving clinical masks for health professionals and patients.