United States of America now has the most reported coronavirus cases in the world, surpassing China and Italy, with the three countries accounting for almost half of the world’s infections.
There are at least 100,013 cases of novel coronavirus in the United States, according to CNN Health’s tally of US cases that are detected and tested in the country through public health systems.
So far, 1,545 people have died in the United States from coronavirus.
As of yesterday, there have been at least 359 new deaths reported, the most deaths reported in the US in a single day.
The total includes cases from all 50 states, Washington, DC and other US territories, as well as all repatriated cases.
In China, where the virus was believed to have been transferred from wild animals to humans, the National Health Commission on Friday reported 55 new cases, including 54 it said were imported infections in recent arrivals from overseas.
There were no new cases reported in Wuhan, the provincial capital where the coronavirus is reported to have emerged from late last year.
The virus is also having serious damage on the country’s economy as a record-shattering 3.3 million US citizens applied for unemployment benefits in a single week – nearly five times the old record, set in 1982.
Job losses have swept across sectors from food services to retail to transportation, as nearly half of the country has closed to non-essential businesses.
“It is staggering, we are only seeing the initial numbers. They will get worse, unfortunately,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters, estimating that half a million people in the city would lose work.
But stock markets continued to climb on Friday, with Asian bourses in the green after a third straight day of rises on Wall Street.
Traders have taken heart from the passage through the Senate of a $2 trillion stimulus bill – the largest in US history, which will support the country’s businesses and provide cash payouts to people.
The rescue plan, which is expected to be voted on in the House of Representatives on Friday, would initially dispense cheques of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child.
Scientists had earlier warned that the United States someday would become the country hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic and that moment arrived on Thursday.
With over 330 million residents, the United States is the world’s third most populous nation, meaning it provides a vast pool of people who can potentially get Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.
And it is a sprawling, cacophonous democracy, where states set their own policies and President Trump has sent mixed messages about the scale of the danger and how to fight it, ensuring there was no coherent, unified response to a grave public health threat.
According to report, a series of missteps and lost opportunities dogged the nation’s response. Prominent among them is the failure of the country to take the pandemic seriously even as it engulfed China, a deeply flawed effort to provide broad testing for the virus that left the country blind to the extent of the crisis, and a dire shortage of masks and protective gear to protect doctors and nurses on the front lines, as well as ventilators to keep the critically ill alive.
“This could have been stopped by implementing testing and surveillance much earlier for example, when the first imported cases were identified,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University in New York.
“If these are the cases we’ve confirmed, how many cases are we still missing?” she added.
China’s leaders, stung by the SARS epidemic in 2003 and several bird flu scares since then, were slow to respond to the outbreak that began in the city of Wuhan, as local officials suppressed news of the outbreak.
However, China’s autocratic government acted with ferocious intensity after the belated start, eventually shutting down swaths of the country. Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan quickly began preparing for the worst.
The United States instead remained preoccupied with business as usual. Impeachment. Harvey Weinstein. Brexit and the Oscars.
Only a few virologists recognized the threat for what it was. The virus was not influenza, but it had the hallmarks of the 1918 Spanish flu: relatively low lethality, but relentlessly transmissible.
Cellphone videos leaking out of China showed what was happening as it spread in Wuhan: dead bodies on hospital floors, doctors crying in frustration, rows of unattended coffins outside the crematories.
For now, at least, China has contained the coronavirus with draconian measures but the pathogen had embarked on a Grand Tour of most countries on Earth, with devastating epidemics in Iran, Italy, France. More videos emerged of prostrate victims, exhausted nurses and lines of coffins.
The United States, which should have been ready, was not. This country has an unsurpassed medical system supported by trillions of dollars from insurers, Medicare and Medicaid. Armies of doctors transplant hearts and cure cancer.
The public health system, limping along on local tax receipts, kills mosquitoes and traces the contacts of people with sexually transmitted diseases. It has been outmatched by the pandemic.
There was no Pentagon ready to fight the war on this pandemic, no wartime draft law. There was eventually a White House Coronavirus Task Force, but it has been led by politicians, not medical experts.
Now at least160 million Americans have been ordered to stay home in states from California to New York. Schools are closed, often along with bars, restaurants and many other businesses. Hospitals are coping with soaring numbers of patients in New York City, even as supplies of essential protective gear and equipment dwindle and other hospitals, other communities fear what may be coming.