US marks 160,000 virus deaths, talks stall

With US coronavirus deaths topping 160,000, there's resistance to plans to reopen schools.
With US coronavirus deaths topping 160,000, there's resistance to plans to reopen schools.

More than 160,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States, a Reuters tally shows, as President Donald Trump says he would unilaterally grant financial relief to Americans after talks with congressional Democrats stalled.

The grim milestone on Friday, which includes 10,000 deaths nationwide in the past nine days, comes as Americans and their political leaders remain divided over such issues as reopening schools, testing, business closures and mask orders.

"Elected leaders need to begin to address this crisis as a public health rather than a political issue," said Dr. Melanie Thompson, an internist in Atlanta.

"Federal and state governments should subsidise access to serial rapid testing for schools and all senior living facilities. Congress needs to provide a financial safety net for the most vulnerable, including our essential workers," Thompson said.

Trump said he would issue an executive order suspending payroll taxes for all Americans through the end of this year and extending supplemental unemployment benefits if the White House could not reach a deal on a relief package with top Democrats in Congress.

Trump, speaking at a news conference at his golf property in Bedminster, New Jersey, made the vow after negotiations between the two sides broke down on Friday.

Democrats said they agreed to reduce their $US3.4 trillion ($A4.7 trillion) proposal but Republicans would not agree to more than double their $US1 trillion ($A1.4 trillion) counter-offer.

COVID-19 infections are rising in 20 US states, according to a Reuters analysis, as the centre of the outbreak shifts from sunbelt states such as California, Florida and Texas to the Midwest.

Roughly 100,000 people were expected to descend on Sturgis, South Dakota, this weekend for an annual 10-day motorcycle rally, prompting concerns that the popular event could touch off a fresh wave of the illness.

City officials in Anchorage, Alaska, on Friday won a court ruling in favour of a ban on indoor restaurant dining after suing an eatery that defied an emergency order prohibiting the practice

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker partially rolled back plans to reopen the state's economy, reducing the maximum number allowed at outdoor gatherings from 100 to 50.

School reopenings remained a divisive issue nationwide. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Friday that some 700 districts in the state could reopen classrooms, but urged them to consult with teachers, students and parents.

"If you look at our infection rate we are probably in the best situation in the country right now," Cuomo told reporters. "If anybody can open schools, we can open schools."

In New York City, where 1.1 million children attend the country's largest network of public schools, Mayor Bill de Blasio has said student attendance will be limited to between one and three days each week.

Chicago Public Schools, which make up the country's third largest school district, reversed course this week, saying students would stick with remote learning when the school year begins.

Some states, including Florida and Iowa, are mandating schools provide at least some in-person learning, while the governors of South Carolina and Missouri have recommended all classrooms reopen.

Los Angeles, home to the nation's second-largest school district, has said students will remain home for the start of the new term.

Texas had initially called for schools to reopen but has since allowed districts to apply for waivers as the state grapples with a rising case load.

The Houston Independent School District has said the school year will begin virtually on Sept. 8, but will shift to in-person learning on October 19.

Australian Associated Press