The United States enters one of the most critical weeks so far in the coronavirus crisis with the death toll exploding in New York, Michigan and Louisiana.
New York, the hardest-hit state, reported on Sunday that there were nearly 600 new deaths for a total of 4159 deaths and 122,000 total cases.
Bodies of victims of COVID-19, the flu-like respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, were stacked in bright orange bags inside a makeshift morgue outside the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn, according to photos provided to Reuters.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said new hospitalisations had fallen by 50 per cent and, for the first time in at least a week, deaths had fallen slightly from the prior day, when they rose by 630.
But he cautioned that it was not yet clear whether the crisis in the state was reaching a plateau.
"The coronavirus is truly vicious and effective at what the virus does," Cuomo told a daily briefing. "It's an effective killer."
US Surgeon General Jerome Adams warned on Fox News on Sunday that hard times were ahead but "there is a light at the end of the tunnel if everyone does their part for the next 30 days".
"This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans' lives, quite frankly. This is going to be our Pearl Harbour moment, our 9/11 moment, only it's not going to be localised," he said.
"It's going to be happening all over the country. And I want America to understand that."
Places such as Pennsylvania, Colorado and Washington, DC are starting to record rising deaths.
The White House coronavirus task force warned this is not the time to go to the grocery store or other public places.
Most states have ordered residents to stay home except for essential trips to slow the spread of the virus in the United States where more than 321,000 people have tested positive and more than 9100 have died, according to a Reuters tally.
However, a few churches were holding large gatherings on Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week in Christian churches.
"We're defying the rules because the commandment of God is to spread the Gospel," said Tony Spell, pastor at the Life Tabernacle megachurch in a suburb of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
He has defied state orders against assembling in large groups and has already been hit with six misdemeanours.
Australian Associated Press