U.S. tops 20 million confirmed COVID cases, most of any country by far

Nancy Dillon, New York Daily News

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. topped 20 million on Friday, the most of any country according to Johns Hopkins University.

That’s 24% of the planet’s official cases, a sobering figure considering the U.S. is home to less than 5% of the world’s population.

India has the second-largest number of confirmed cases with 10.3 million, Johns Hopkins said.

Brazil has reported 7.7 million, Russia has reported 3.2 million and France has logged 2.7 million, the university’s tracking dashboard said.

COVID deaths also are up in the U.S., totaling 346,687 as of Friday, or 19% of the world’s cumulative coronavirus death toll.

The new data comes as health officials around the globe race to get newly approved vaccines into the arms of frontline medical personnel, nursing home residents, vulnerable patients, first responders and other essential workers.

In the U.S., the federal government missed its goal of vaccinating 20 million people by year’s end as the distribution over the last three weeks hit logistical challenges.

Much of the responsibility has fallen on the shoulders of already overstretched state health departments, overcrowded hospitals and understaffed nursing homes, experts have said.

President-elect Joe Biden criticized the Trump administration Tuesday for the vaccine rollout and vowed to accelerate the current speed once he’s sworn in this month.

“The Trump administration’s plan to distribute vaccines is falling behind, far behind,” Biden said during his remarks from Wilmington, Del.

“As I long feared and warned, the effort to distribute and administer the vaccine is not progressing as it should,” he said.

“If (the pace) continues to move as it is now, it’s going to take years, not months, to vaccinate the American people,” he said, saying his administration will push to administer 100 million shots in its first 100 days.

He said Congress would have to fund the plan to ramp up the current pace, but he also plans to use his power under the Defense Production Act to order private industry to accelerate production of the materials needed for the vaccines.

“This is going to be the greatest operational challenge we’ve ever faced as a nation,” he said.

“We need to be honest — the next few weeks and months are going to be very tough, very tough for our nation. Maybe the toughest during this entire pandemic,” Biden warned.

He said it’s likely “things are going to get worse before they get better.”