U.S. tops 5,100 coronavirus deaths, including more than 1,000 on Wednesday

Peter Weber

As the world creeps toward 1 million confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus and surpasses 47,000 deaths, the U.S. hit a grim milestone on Wednesday, reporting more than 1,000 deaths tied to the coronavirus for the first time. As of Thursday morning, according to a widely cited count from Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. has 216,721 cases and 5,138 coronavirus deaths, including 1,374 in New York City. The number of deaths reported Wednesday, 1,040, is more than twice the previous U.S. high mark, 504 deaths, registered Tuesday, USA Today reports.

The U.S. now has the largest confirmed outbreak of COVID-19 in the world, though there are serious doubts about the numbers reported from China and other nations. Only Italy (13,155 deaths) and Spain (9,387) have higher official death counts. On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence said the administration believes "Italy may be the comparable area to the United States at this point," citing models of the pandemic. In Italy, the strain on the hospitals from the spike in COVID-19 cases has blocked other ill people from getting care.

The death tolls in the U.S. and other hard-hit countries don't reflect "the untold stories of people who don't go to see overburdened doctors, delaying treatment for illnesses that turn terminal, or of those who languish as they wait for treatment at emergency rooms flooded with COVID-19 patients," Josh Kovensky writes at Talking Points Memo. "Meanwhile, the lack of testing has meant that people may have died of COVID-19 itself without ever having been diagnosed."

Some researchers predict that the U.S. death toll will top 2,200 a day by mid-April, USA Today reports. The No. 1 cause of death in the U.S., heart disease, currently kills about 1,772 Americans a day, according to CDC figures, while lung cancer kills 433 people a day, breast cancer kills about 166 people a day, and the 2017-18 flu — the worst outbreak in the last decade — killed an estimated 508 people a day.

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