US COVID-19 Cases Soar Past China To Become Virus Epicenter

At the time of writing, there have been almost 550,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Johns Hopkins University CSSE

Katy Pallister 27 Mar 2020, 15:42

After more than 18,000 cases of COVID-19 were reported across the country on Thursday, the US has overtaken both China and Italy’s numbers. At the time of writing, there have been almost 86,000 confirmed cases reported in the US, compared to nearly 82,000 in China, and around 80,500 in Italy, according to latest figures.

At the core of these numbers in the US is New York; the state accounts for nearly half of all confirmed cases, whilst the city itself makes up more than a quarter of all cases in the US. In total, the US has seen 1,296 deaths so far, and 753 recovered patients.

Commenting on these figures at a White House briefing yesterday, President Trump said it was a “tribute to the amount of testing that we’re doing.” According to the BBC, Vice President Mike Pence has reported that coronavirus tests were now available in all 50 states, and more than 552,000 tests had been conducted nationwide.

Less than a month ago, the country had reportedly carried out the fewest number of COVID-19 tests per capita, out of all the affected countries. Further clouds have been cast over testing in the US, as according to a government email obtained by The Wall Street Journal, early tests couldn’t distinguish between coronavirus and water.

Testing in the US has dramatically increased; from only 1,707 by March 5, to more than 552,000 now. U.S. Centers for Disease Control/ Wikimedia Commons

Nonetheless, rapid COVID-19 tests have been pushed through by the FDA, and testing numbers have risen. In New York, the high confirmed case numbers have also been attributed to their dedication to ramp up testing. Governor Andrew Cuomo has reportedly said over 100,000 people have been tested for coronavirus in New York, making up a large percentage of all nationwide testing.

Although testing is only part of the reason for the high totals. "I think it is true that we have a worse outbreak here just by admissions to ICUs as they begin to build. It's not just testing," Dr Arthur Caplan, head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU's School of Medicine, told CNN.

At present, 22 states are set to have implemented stay-at-home orders by the end of this week. This will mean that more than 50 percent of the US population will be officially urged to stay home. Some states have already ordered the closing of non-essential businesses in an effort to slow the virus, which has led to a record number of Americans filing for unemployment for the week ending March 21.

Earlier this week, President Trump said that he wanted to reopen the country for business by Easter, on April 12. A “goal” that Public Health Officials on the White House task force said could be “flexible” in different areas based on data.

However, the date has still garnered much criticism. A study submitted for review earlier this week by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, suggests that Trump’s “goal” will occur at the same time as the peak of the US outbreak. From the second week of April daily deaths are predicted to exceed 2,300, which continues to raise concerns over the availability of beds and other medical equipment such as ventilators.

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