More than a half-million people have now died from COVID-19 worldwide, and the death toll has doubled in just over seven weeks.
That grim milestone – marked Sunday by Johns Hopkins University – is particularly unsettling given warnings by health experts that the pandemic is still in its infancy. The U.S. with more than 125,000 deaths makes up approximately 25% of the total fatalities.
As the number of confirmed cases also surpassed 10 million worldwide, health officials are bracing for a second wave of the deadly virus, likely this fall.
While China and Europe took the brunt of the early days of the pandemic, the virus is now raging in the United States, Brazil, Russia and India.
The global death toll surpassed 250,000 on May 4.
In a sign of the new reality, the European Union is set to lift its external borders on July 1, and is weighing which countries should be allowed access to EU member states.
The criteria include not only infection rates in other countries, but also how those countries are dealing with the rates, notably testing and tracing.
Against that backdrop, the EU is not expected to allow travelers from the U.S., Brazil and Russia into their borders.
It’s been five months since the first U.S. case. Read how the pandemic unfolded.
US death toll could hit nearly 180,000 by October
Some experts predict the U.S. death toll to hit nearly 180,000 by Oct. 1.
The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation released a model Wednesday with a range of 159,497 to 213,715 deaths nationwide.
Institute Director Dr. Chris Murray, however, stressed the importance of wearing a face mask, saying that simple gesture has had a “profound effect” on the epidemic.
Wearing a mask “is extremely low-cost, and, for the individual, provides a 1/3 – as high as one half – reduction in the risk of transmission,” he said in a video press release. “But at the community level, can save an extraordinary number of lives.”
The U.S. on Saturday saw 42,597 new coronavirus cases. On Friday, the nation recorded 45,255 cases, the highest daily count yet. As several states see dramatic increases as well, the jump in Texas and Florida prompted the states’ governors to pause reopening plans. Texas closed bars and limited restaurant capacity, while Florida banned drinking at bars.
Meanwhile, health officials are possibly missing 10 coronavirus cases for every one case detected, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield estimated Thursday.
“We’re still in the first wave,” Redfield said. But the pandemic today looks markedly different from the outbreak two or three months ago, he said, when many deaths were among older people and those with underlying medical conditions.
Now, the CDC is seeing a greater proportion of cases diagnosed in younger people, said Dr. Jay Butler, the CDC’s deputy director of infectious diseases and COVID-19 response incident manager.
The impact on deaths and hospitalizations from the increase in positive cases won’t be known for a few weeks. Younger people are less likely to succumb to the disease, and deaths in the United States have been decreasing significantly for the past two months while cases plateaued in the same period.
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New threats lurk in Europe, Asia
Despite the EU’s growing confidence, the threat is far from over for Europe. Dr. Hans Henri Kluge, regional director for the World Health Organization, warned that 11 countries in Europe have reported a “very significant resurgence” in COVID-19 cases recently. These include Armenia, Sweden, Moldova, North Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Kosovo. He said health systems could be “pushed to the brink” if these increased transmissions of the virus go unchecked.
In Asia, India’s confirmed coronavirus cases crossed the half-million mark Saturday, jumping by a one-day record of 18,552 infections. The death count rose above 15,500.
China, which spawned the original coronavirus, reported an uptick in new coronavirus cases a day after the nation’s CDC said it expects an outbreak in Beijing to be brought under control soon. The National Health Commission said Saturday that 21 cases had been confirmed nationwide in the latest 24-hour period, including 17 in the nation’s capital.
City officials have temporarily shut down a huge wholesale food market where the virus spread widely, re-closed schools and locked down some neighborhoods.
South Korea has reported 51 newly confirmed cases of the coronavirus as fresh clusters continue to emerge in the densely populated Seoul area. They bring the national caseload to 12,653, including 282 deaths. Thirty-five of the new cases came from Seoul and nearby cities and towns, which have been at the center of a COVID-19 resurgence since late May. Twelve others were linked to international arrivals.
Australian health officials are expecting more cases of COVID-19 as hundreds of nationals return from overseas to begin mandatory quarantine.
Contributing: Grace Hauck, USA TODAY; Associated Press
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