US now has the world’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak

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American deaths from the coronavirus passed Italy’s, affirming the United States’ spot as the epicenter of the global pandemic.

Deaths from the virus reached more than 19,880 in the U.S., according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Italy had almost 19,500 fatalities. The U.S. figure was expected to rise throughout the day as more states report data.

The heavy toll in the U.S. — and much of Europe — is linked to the failure to enact widespread measures like mass testing and social distancing early enough to prevent the virus from taking hold. Parts of the U.S. were still not locked down in recent days, creating the opportunity for wider spread in places that haven’t suffered as much as hot spots in New York and Detroit.

That the U.S. has more deaths than Italy isn’t that surprising given that its population of 330 million is five times greater. The statistics may also be incomplete, due to differences in testing and reporting among countries.

Yet the U.S. had weeks to see what was coming, as China writhed under the pandemic in January and then Europe began suffering just weeks later. Critics have charged the U.S. with squandering precious time that could have been spent building testing capacity or stockpiling medical supplies that are now hard to find. By Feb. 26, Italy was locking down whole towns and regions beset by the virus.

That day, President Donald Trump said at a White House press briefing that the U.S. had the situation “so well under control.” There were only 15 cases of coronavirus across the country, he said, and “we’re going very substantially down, not up.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has chided the U.S., along with China, as they blame one another for the severity of the epidemic. The two superpowers must show “honest leadership” or risk turning the outbreak into an even bigger crisis, he said at a briefing on April 8.


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