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Perhaps the only detail more concerning than the latest pandemic milestone broken by the United States is the rate at which these markers are coming. According to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, it took over three months for coronavirus cases to grow from the first reported case on January 20 to the millionth patient on April 28. The second million came at a quicker clip, a little over six weeks later, on June 11. As the repercussions of the rushed southern opening became clear, 3 million U.S. cases were recorded less than a month later, on July 8. Cases surpassed 4 million just 15 days later, on July 23. While the president assured the nation that COVID-19 will “go away like things go away,” the case count marched toward its latest milestone — 5 million cases, reached on Sunday, or 17 days since the last million.
Though the outbreak of summer cases in hot spot states like California and Arizona has begun to decline, the United States, the world leader in both deaths and cases, is still frequently experiencing over 1,000 deaths per day. On the same day that the U.S. passed 5 million cases, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb warned that the death toll will almost certainly top 200,000 deaths by the end of the year. “Whether we’re closer to 200,000 or closer to 300,000 depends on what we do now and how it evolves,” he told Face the Nation. Last week, a model provided by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation hit the high end of that range, anticipating that COVID-19 deaths would rise to 300,000 by the end of the year, almost doubling the current number.
Close to five months after the nation shut down in order to halt the spread of the virus and buy time to develop economic and public-health strategies, the United States is still without competent federal guidance, let alone an executive who understands the century-defining challenge at hand. In February, President Trump was calling the pandemic a political “hoax.” In early August, with K-12 students already in classrooms in several states, he was still broadcasting false information, including the claim that children are “almost immune” to the virus. Naturally, a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association published on Sunday didn’t support the president’s falsehood: In the past two weeks, 97,000 children in the U.S. tested positive for the coronavirus, representing over a quarter of the total caseload for those under 20 since the pandemic began.