WASHINGTON: The US death toll from COVID-19 on Tuesday (Apr 28) exceeded the 58,220 American lives lost during the Vietnam War as cases topped 1 million, according to a Reuters tally.
US cases have doubled in 18 days and make up one-third of all infections in the world, according to the tally.
The actual number of cases is thought to be higher, with state public health officials cautioning that shortages of trained workers and materials have limited testing capacity.
About 30 per cent of the cases have occurred in New York state, the epicenter of the US outbreak, followed by New Jersey, Massachusetts, California and Pennsylvania.
The US death toll since the first death recorded on Feb 29 reached 58,233 on Tuesday, up more than 2,000 from the previous day.
The outbreak could take more than 74,000 US lives by Aug 4, compared with an Apr 22 forecast of over 67,600, according to the University of Washington's predictive model, often cited by White House officials.
Globally, coronavirus cases have exceeded 3 million since the outbreak began in China late last year. The United States, with the world's third-largest population, has five times as many cases as the next hardest-hit countries of Italy, Spain and France.
Of the 20 most severely affected countries, the United States ranks fifth based on cases per capita, according to a Reuters tally.
The United States has about 30 cases per 10,000 people. Spain ranks first at over 48 cases per 10,000 people, followed by Belgium, Switzerland and Italy.
In addition to exceeding the Vietnam War toll, the US toll for the coronavirus exceeded the number of deaths from seasonal flu in recent years, except for the 2017-2018 season, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Flu deaths range from a low of 12,000 in the 2011-2012 season to a high of 61,000 during 2017-2018.
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The coronavirus deaths in the United States fall short of the approximately 100,000 Americans killed by seasonal flu in 1967, according to the CDC. It is also far less deadly than the Spanish flu, which began in 1918 and killed 675,000 Americans.
Unprecedented stay-at-home orders to try to curb the spread of the virus have hammered the economy, leading to an increase in the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits.
About a dozen states are beginning to relax the stay-at-home restrictions despite the warning of health experts that premature actions could cause a surge in new cases.
A Reuters/Ipsos survey this month found that a bipartisan majority of Americans want to go on sheltering in place to protect themselves from the coronavirus, despite the impact on the economy.
The governors of other states, including New York, have put off easing restrictions out of concern they might fuel a second wave of infections.
"Everyone is talking about reopening. I get it," said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, adding any decision should not be made based on politics or emotions or in reaction to protests.
"We want to reopen, but we want to do it without infecting more people or overwhelming the hospital system," Cuomo told his daily briefing, adding that his state's death toll had grown by 335 in the last day.
Squadrons of US Navy Blue Angels jets and US Air Force Thunderbirds jets performed a joint flyover in the sky above New York City in a tribute to frontline responders and essential workers fighting the pandemic. The planes also were flying over New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
The US Chamber of Commerce, the top lobbying group for the country's business sector, called for consistency across federal, state and local governments to reopen the economy but urged against any public health guidelines becoming regulations that could harm businesses as they seek to restart.
74,000 US DEATHS FORECAST
The University of Washington's model, often cited by White House officials and state public health authorities, upwardly revised its projected US coronavirus death toll to more than 74,000 people by Aug 4, compared with its previous forecast of 67,000.
The university's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said late on Monday that the number of US deaths caused by the virus was not abating as quickly as previously projected after hitting a daily peak on Apr 15 with about 2,700.
While most states seem to have passed their peaks in the pandemic, seven - Hawaii, Mississippi, Texas, Wyoming, Utah, Nebraska and North Dakota - may be experiencing their peaks now or in the coming weeks, the model showed.
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits over the past five weeks has soared to 26.5 million, underscoring the pandemic's economic impact.
Chuck Schumer, the top US Senate Democrat, said on Tuesday that state and local governments will be forced to make "massive" layoffs if Congress fails to act soon to provide financial assistance to help them deal with the costs of addressing the pandemic.
In another sign of the impact of the pandemic on the functioning of the nation, the US House of Representatives will not return to Washington next week as planned, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said on Tuesday.
Hoyer said House leaders received a warning from the chamber's physician that there is a health risk to lawmakers amid a still-rising number of infections in the US capital.