U.S. Now on Pace to Have Worst Coronavirus Outbreak Anywhere

The coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. has spread to nearly 70,000 people in the country, as of Thursday, up from over 55,200 yesterday, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. is following a similar trajectory of growth in cases as Italy, which currently has the largest number of confirmed infections, while the U.S. falls just behind it, followed by Spain.

Having reported a 25 percent increase in deaths on Wednesday and nearly 20,000 new cases by Thursday morning, the U.S. is poised to potentially experience the worst outbreak in the world, overtaking Italy.

The virus, which was first reported in Wuhan, a city in China's Hubei province, has affected 487,200 people across nearly 175 countries. Nearly 118,000 people have recovered from infection while more than 22,000 have died.

China has seen more than 81,700 cases to date, while nearly 73,000 have recovered and around 3,200 have died. But the country has claimed the outbreak has been largely contained, with now more cases being reported outside the country than within.

Europe is the current epicenter of the pandemic, with Italy and Spain the worst-hit. Italy has seen nearly 74,300 cases, while Spain has reported around 56,200 cases. The U.S. is just behind Italy, with around 69,200 confirmed cases as of Thursday.

But an earlier stage of the outbreak, both European countries showed a much higher number of cases than the U.S.

Spain reported around 4,000 and Italy around 1,500 cases, while the U.S. reported much less, with just under 500 cases, around two weeks after the 10th death was reported.

At that stage, the number of deaths in Italy and Spain were doubling every two to three days, while the double increase was slower in the U.S., which saw a two-fold jump in deaths more than every three days.

However, at a more local level and at an even earlier stage of the outbreak, deaths in New York state doubled nearly every 1.5 days, while in Lombardy (the worst-hit region of Italy), saw a doubling every three days. Madrid saw its deaths double closer to every two days. These patterns took place around a week after the 10th death was reported.

NYC during coronavirus outbreak, March 2020
Times Square stands mostly empty as as much of the city is void of cars and pedestrians over fears of spreading the coronavirus on March 22, 2020 in New York City. Getty Images

When you fast forward to a later stage of the outbreak, the trajectory of the number of confirmed cases and the death rate in the U.S. nearly converged with that of Italy and Spain about a week after the 100th case was reported.

But by around 21 days since the 100th case was reported, the U.S. saw a higher number of cases than Italy and Spain, with nearly 60,000 confirmed infections. Spain reported 50,000 cases, while Italy saw around 20,000 cases at the same point in time.

The number of cases in the U.S. was also reported to be doubling somewhere between every two and three days, while it was slightly slower in Spain and in Italy, where it was doubling closer to every three days.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, shows the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in a selection of states.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in New York, Washington,California
This infographic shows the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in New York state, Washington state and California.

New York, which saw a sharp rise in cases at the earlier stage of the pandemic, continues to see the highest death toll in the country. U.S. health experts have expressed they are "deeply concerned" about the growing outbreak in the state.

Earlier this week, Dr. Deborah Birx, a physician and health expert on the COVID-19 virus task force led by Vice President Mike Pence, confirmed: "About 56 percent of all the cases in the United States are coming out of that metro area, and 60 percent of all the new cases are coming out of the metro New York area, and 31 percent of the people succumbing to this disease," she said at a White House press briefing on Tuesday.

"We remain deeply concerned about New York City and the New York metro area," she said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and a member of the U.S. COVID-19 virus task force, also noted that about one per thousand people in New York are infected, which is "about 8 to 10 times more than in other areas," he said at the press briefing.

Earlier this week, the World Health Organization also warned that the U.S. has the potential to experience a widespread outbreak. When asked whether the U.S. could become the new epicenter of the virus, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told reporters: "We are now seeing a very large acceleration in cases in the U.S. So it does have that potential," Reuters reports.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the spread of COVID-19 across the U.S.

This infographic shows the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases by state.
This infographic shows the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases by state.

Data on COVID-19 cases is from Johns Hopkins University unless otherwise stated.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.