Eight months after the first confirmed U.S. case of the novel coronavirus, the United States hit a grim milestone of 7 million total cases on Friday, in a pandemic that has bankrupted businesses, put seniors under virtual house arrest, drastically altered daily life and become the centerpiece in a partisan struggle leading up to the Nov. 3 election.
As of Friday afternoon, the Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracker listed 7,015,242 cases in the United States and 203,329 deaths, the largest tally in both measures in the world, though India, with a surge in cases, has moved into the No. 2 spot and is closing the gap with the U.S.
Texas has had the largest increase in the number of cases in the past 7 days as of Friday, according to the Centers for Disease Control, with 44,827, down 36% from its record high in mid-July, a peak that saw saw an average daily increase of 10,000 new cases; the peak came days after Gov. Greg Abbott became one of the first GOP governors to put a statewide mask mandate in place, and call for widespread business closures, especially for bars, leading to lawsuits and pushback from his party.
California, led by Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom, ranks second in case growth over the past week as of Friday, with 24,507 new cases, according to the CDC, down 62% from its mid-July peak and coming about three months after that state mandated a cloth face covering when outside the home and as most non-essential businesses remain closed.
Florida, whose Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has largely pushed back against strict lockdown measures to contain the spread of the virus, has the third-highest 7-day tally with 19,136 cases, according to the CDC, down 77% from the mid-July peak, though cases have spiked recently among college-age residents.
The nation hit 6 million cases on August 31 and 303,247 cases were added in the past week, down 35% from the mid-July peak, with the growth coming as educators brace for a back-to-school surge and elections officials scramble to find poll workers as retirees — usually the backbone of the election-day staff — backing out in large numbers for fear of contracting the virus.
Because of differences in methodology, organizations tracking the virus can have different figures, especially for case counts. The New York Times tracker hit the 7 million mark Thursday.
226,000: That’s the possible number of U.S. deaths from Covid-19 the nation could see by October 17, based on forecasts from about 40 groups to the CDC, which added that, on the low end, the nation could be at 214,000 deaths from the virus by that time. In March, Trump, who has been criticized for initially downplaying the virus, suggested of the death count that “if we could hold that down, as we’re saying, to 100,000, it’s a horrible number, maybe even less, but to 100,000. So we have between 100 [thousand] and 200,000. We altogether have done a very good job.”
The coronavirus pandemic has defied optimistic projections that, like the flu, it would dissipate with warmer temperatures. With 38 days until the November election the deadly virus, which easily spreads among people in close contact, has become a major political issue. President Trump, who this week gave his administration an “A +” on how it’s handled the pandemic, has consistently sought to cast doubt on mail-in voting, the method selected by many voters reluctant to stand in long lines at the polls. Americans also have seen rapid changes in guidance from health experts about the need for testing and the value of mask wearing, which has added to confusion and added fuel to those pushing conspiracy theories — testing social media’s ability to block the spread of misinformation. Meanwhile, Trump has debated openly with his own health experts on when a safe and effective vaccine will be widely available to the American people.