Mar 26, 2020 - Health

U.S. leads world in confirmed coronavirus cases for first time

Capitol reflected in side of an ambulance
The U.S. Capitol reflected in the side of a standby ambulance on March 26, 2020. Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

The United States on Thursday reported the most coronavirus cases in the world for the first time, over China and Italy with at least 82,404 infections and more than 1,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins.

Why it matters: From the beginning, the U.S. — with a population of more than 325 million — has repeatedly underestimated and reacted slowly to the coronavirus, prolonging its economic pain and multiplying its toll on Americans’ health.

First, it happened with testing — a delay that allowed the virus to spread undetected, Axios' Caitlin Owens reports.

  • Then we were caught flat-footed by the surge in demand for medical supplies in emerging hotspots.
  • And the Trump administration declined to issue a national shelter-in-place order. The resulting patchwork across the country left enough economic hubs closed to crash the economy, but enough places up and running to allow the virus to continue to spread rampantly.

What they're saying: At a press conference Thursday, President Trump attributed the U.S. overtaking China to ramped up testing, before casting doubt on whether the Chinese government is reporting accurate numbers.

  • It is possible that China, which was the site of the original coronavirus outbreak, has been underreporting its cases.
  • The Chinese government covered up the outbreak in its first few weeks, likely allowing the virus to spread both domestically and throughout the rest of the world.

Flashback: Exactly one month ago on Feb. 26, President Trump said at a coronavirus press briefing that the U.S. has 15 reported cases and that "the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero."

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