US now has more coronavirus cases than either China or Italy

The United States now has more confirmed coronavirus cases than Italy and China, making it the country with the largest outbreak in the world.

The total number of cases in the U.S. reached 82,404 Thursday evening, eclipsing China’s 81,782 cases and Italy’s 80,589, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The virus emerged in Wuhan, China, in December. It has since spread to more than half a million people in almost every country around the world and continues to pick up speed, the World Health Organization warned earlier this week.

“The pandemic is accelerating,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday at a press briefing from the organization’s Geneva headquarters. “It took 67 days from the first reported case to reach 100,000 cases, 11 days for second 100,000 cases, and just four days for the third 100,000 cases.”

Confirmed U.S. cases passed 5,000 last week. At the beginning of the month, there were roughly 100 confirmed cases in the U.S.

The number of confirmed cases likely underestimates the true number of infections across the country, officials have acknowledged. Testing in the U.S. has been hampered by delays and a restrictive diagnostic criteria that limits who can get tested. 

With 37,258 confirmed cases as of Thursday morning, New York state accounts for nearly half of all cases in the U.S., according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He 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.

Major outbreaks in hot spots such as New York threaten to overwhelm the local hospital systems, which 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. 

About 20 states have issued stay-at-home orders or advisories and have closed nonessential businesses. Seven states and Washington, D.C., have shuttered nonessential businesses. Several cities or counties in Florida, Texas and Pennsylvania have issued individual stay-at-home orders in the absence of statewide mandates.

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