Confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. surpassed 200,000 Wednesday, doubling since Friday as the country rolls out broader testing and outbreaks pop up in more and more cities.
The coronavirus has now infected 203,608 people in the U.S., killing at least 4,476 people, according to Johns Hopkins University.
President Donald Trump has warned that the country could see an even greater surge in cases over the next few weeks. White House officials are projecting 100,000 to 240,000 U.S. deaths, with coronavirus fatalities peaking over the next two weeks.
The U.S. already has more coronavirus cases than any other country. On Tuesday, New York state became the coronavirus epicenter of the world as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the state surpassed China’s Hubei province, where the outbreak originated about three months ago.
However, economists and U.S. officials have said Chinese officials are likely underreporting the number of infections.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday the state’s confirmed COVID-19 cases rose by more than 10% overnight, bringing the total to 83,712. He said the U.S. death rate could remain high through the summer and he announced new measures to encourage social distancing in New York City, the state’s epicenter.
“People say, ‘well when is it over, two weeks, three weeks, four weeks?’ This model projects you’re going to have a high death rate through July. If this model is correct, this could go through the summer,” Cuomo said at a press conference in Albany.
The state is rushing to build temporary hospitals and the federal government has sent 85 refrigerated trucks to store deceased coronavirus patients.
At the beginning of March, the U.S. had only about 100 confirmed cases.
The number of confirmed cases likely underestimates the true number of infections across the country because testing for the disease had been hampered by delays and a restrictive diagnostic criteria that limited who can get tested.
Cuomo has previously said the rapid growth of confirmed cases is partly due to a “backlog” of infections that had not been confirmed due to lack of testing.
The epidemic in New York as well as burgeoning outbreaks in cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Detroit and New Orleans, threaten to overwhelm hospital systems, as happened in Italy. Hospitals have a limited number of beds, staff and equipment, particularly ventilators, a potentially life-saving device. Cities and states across the country have rolled out strict measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Thirty-three states have issued stay-at-home orders or advisories and have closed nonessential businesses. Six states and Washington, D.C., have shuttered nonessential businesses. Several cities or counties in Texas and Pennsylvania have issued individual stay-at-home orders in the absence of statewide mandates.