Thursday also saw more than 1,000 deaths from COVID-19 in 24 hours for the third day in a row, as cases overwhelm hospitals in multiple states including California, Florida and Texas.
While it took nearly 100 days for the U.S. to reach 1 million confirmed cases back in late April, it only took 16 days for infections to grow from 3 million to 4 million, according to public health data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Cases have been rising by an average of over 60,000 daily for nearly two weeks now. That translates to roughly 2,600 per hour nationwide, the highest rate in the world.
Data shows more than 144,000 Americans have now died from the virus to date. That number is still expected to rise Thursday as more states report, despite the day’s total already reaching 1,044 fatalities by the early evening.
Even though deaths are rising in the United States for a second week in a row, they remain well below levels seen in April, when 2,000 people a day on average died from the virus.
Outside experts along with researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say both the true case total and death toll may be up to 10 times higher than the official data shows, due to shortages in testing during the early stages of the pandemic.
The surges have come as states gradually reopen their economies from self-imposed lockdowns in May. Since then, the hotspots of the pandemic have shifted from areas like New York to large parts of the south and west.
Confusion has persisted, however, over issues like wearing masks to limit the spread of the virus, with some conservatives arguing against the measure, saying it goes against the U.S. Constitution.
U.S. President Donald Trump, who once refused to wear masks, has now urged Americans to wear them as much as possible, and has taken to wearing a mask himself in public.
He’s also begun to try to convey a less dismissive tone about the health crisis, admitting Tuesday at his first briefing in months that it would “get worse before it gets better.”
Yet he has continued to criticize mass testing — he called it “overrated” in a Fox News interview Wednesday — and argue the tests themselves are to blame for the high number of cases. Experts say widespread testing is, in fact, key to determining the full scope of the pandemic and help slow its spread.
Trump is also continuing to push for schools to reopen in the fall, insisting children have stronger immune systems while ignoring the potential for them to spread the virus to adults, such as teachers.
On Thursday, Trump admitted that hot spot states may need to delay re-opening schools by a few weeks, but still said of schools: “They have to open.”
A recent poll found only one in 10 Americans want schools to reopen without any restrictions, while only three in 10 want in-person classroom learning to resume at all.
In Florida, the state teachers’ union has sued to stop in-class instruction. Florida reported a record one-day increase in COVID-19 deaths on Thursday at 173.
Florida’s health commissioner said earlier this month schools must reopen, but Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has since said that parents should have the option to keep their children home.
Trump administration officials have said a quicker reopening is essential to get the cratering economy moving again, a central plank of the president’s re-election campaign.
Trump also said he would no longer hold part of the Republican Party’s nominating convention in Florida in August because of a spike in coronavirus cases in the state.
“The timing for this event is not right,” Trump told the White House briefing. “It’s just not right with what’s happened recently, the flare-up in Florida. To have a big convention, it’s not the right time.”
Worldwide, the novel coronavirus has already infected at least 15.4 million people and killed over 630,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Behind the U.S., the remaining top five most infected countries are Brazil, India, Russia and South Africa.
— With files from Reuters
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