The U.S. officially surpassed 4 million recorded COVID-19 cases on Thursday, adding 1 million new cases in just the last 15 days, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The actual number of cases is likely much higher, according to federal health officials.
“Our best estimate right now is that for every case that was reported, there actually were 10 other infections,” Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said last month.
More than 143,700 people have died from the virus in the U.S. — nearly twice as many as Brazil, the country with the second highest number of fatalities.
The milestone comes as 59,600 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S. on Wednesday, roughly 300 short of the country’s peak recorded in mid-April, according to the Covid Tracking Project. While New York was the country’s hotspot early in the pandemic, California, Texas and Florida have emerged as new problem areas, with California surpassing New York as the state with the most cases.
“We’ve rolled back essentially two months’ worth of progress with what we’re seeing in number of cases … in the United States,” Dr. Ali Khan, dean of the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s College of Public Health, told CNN.
The reported count is accelerating, with the national seven-day average of new daily cases hitting a record 67,429 on Wednesday. It took the country nearly 100 days to count its first 1 million cases, from January 21 to April 28, though many cases went undiagnosed when testing was more sparse in the early days of the pandemic.
President Trump on Tuesday said the virus is likely to “get worse before it gets better.” He also urged mask wearing, as at least 41 states have now mandated face coverings.
“America’s youth will act responsibly, and we’re asking everybody that when you are not able to socially distance, wear a mask. Get a mask,” Trump said. “Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact, they’ll have an effect, and we need everything we can get.”
At least 27 states have paused or rolled back their reopening plans, while some states hope mask wearing, social distancing, and limiting gatherings can replace second lockdowns.
“Masks will help, but I think we need a lot more than masks to contain this epidemic that’s running through our country like a freight train,” William Haseltine, the chair and president of global health think tank ACCESS Health International, told CNN.
“Until we see major changes of behavior and until we see the public health services here stepping forward with many more resources, we aren’t sure of containing this.”