US coronavirus deaths top 100,000

The US has passed 100,000 deaths in the coronavirus outbreak in less than four months.

It has seen more fatalities than any other country, while its 1.69 million confirmed infections account for about 30% of the worldwide total.

On Thursday, a day after the figure was reached, President Donald Trump tweeted calling it a “sad milestone”.

His initial silence had been noted by critics who pointed out that Mr Trump has often sought to downplay the toll.

The president also expressed his “sympathy and love” for the families and friends of those who have died from Covid-19.

The first US infection was reported in Washington state on 21 January.

Globally there have been 5.6 million people recorded as infected and 354,983 deaths since the virus emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

The US death toll stands at 100,276, according to Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, which has been tracking the pandemic.

It means that around as many Americans have died from Covid-19 as from the Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.

But on a per capita basis the US ranks ninth in its mortality rate behind the likes of Belgium, the UK, France and Italy, according to the university.

The US death toll is still climbing, and health officials say the actual number is likely higher than the recorded count.

What’s the national picture?

Twenty states reported a rise in new cases for the week ending on Sunday, according to a Reuters study.

North Carolina, Wisconsin and Arkansas are among those seeing a steady rise in cases.

The caseload remains stubbornly high in a number of metropolitan areas, including Chicago, Los Angeles and suburban Washington DC.

Some hard-hit states are seeing a drop in death rates, including New York, where 21,000 residents have died.

During the peak of the crisis in the city, the daily death toll was in the hundreds. Hospitals were overwhelmed and makeshift morgues were built outside health facilities.

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What has been the political response?

President Trump has insisted that without his administration’s actions the death toll would be 25 times higher, though critics have accused him of a slow response.

State governors have also been blamed for failing to grasp early enough the lethal threat that the virus posed to nursing homes.

Initially, the Republican president downplayed the pandemic, comparing it to the seasonal flu. Back in February he said the US had the virus “under control” and that by April it could “miraculously go away”.

He predicted 50,000-60,000 deaths, then 60,000-70,000 and then “substantially under 100,000”.

Mr Trump also argued this month it was “a badge of honour” that the US had the world’s highest number of confirmed infections “because it means our testing is much better”.

A study from Columbia University in New York suggested about 36,000 fewer people would have died if the US had acted sooner.

Joe Biden, Mr Trump’s likely Democratic challenger in November’s White House election, issued a message directly to grieving families on Wednesday.

“To those hurting, I’m so sorry for your loss,” the former vice-president said in a tweet. “The nation grieves with you.”

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He also criticised the Trump administration’s handling of the crisis. “This is a fateful milestone we should not have reached; it could have been avoided,” he said.

How is the lockdown easing?

With nearly 39 million Americans out of work during the pandemic, the US is pressing ahead state by state with reopening the coronavirus-frozen economy, even as the death toll continues to move upwards.

All 50 states have begun to ease Covid-19 rules in some form.

The world’s largest theme park, Walt Disney World in Florida, has plans to begin opening on 11 July, if the state governor allows it.

Four Las Vegas casinos owned by MGM Resorts are also scheduled to reopen on 4 July. The company says employees will be tested for Covid-19 regularly.

Currently, there is no vaccine for Covid-19. There is also no confirmed treatment for the disease, but there are several being tested.

According to an AP-NORC poll conducted this month, just 49% of Americans said they would get a coronavirus vaccine if one became available.

What’s the worldwide picture?