On Thursday, the United States crossed an unfortunate milestone in the global fight against the novel coronavirus: leading the world in confirmed cases.
By Thursday afternoon around 3 p.m. PT, the U.S. reports 82,404 confirmed cases of the coronavirus to China’s 81,782 according to a popular COVID-19 tracking tool from Johns Hopkins. Italy, regarded as the world’s emerging hotspot in recent weeks, dropped to third with 80,589 cases.
As the scientific community warned in the U.S. for some time, a lower case count doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no cause for concern. Widespread testing is one of the most effective ways of containing an early epidemic, but it can also lead to boosted numbers when compared to countries doing less testing. Without complete population-wide testing, case counts only represent the sample of a given population that’s undergone testing and do not offer a complete picture of the situation on the ground.
In some parts of the U.S., testing remains far from easy to come by. At one hospital in Queens this week, potential COVID-19 sufferers waited hours to be tested and many were still turned away after the wait. With cases continuing to tick up dangerously in New York, the U.S. also reported 1,000 deaths from the coronavirus on Thursday.
While the hardest-hit areas of the country are still struggling to accommodate an alarming influx of COVID-19 patients, testing is becoming more broadly available. Test availability ramped up dramatically over the last week after a fumbled response from the federal government led to a delay in deploying tests to healthcare providers — a critical factor in the explosion of coronavirus cases the U.S. is grappling with today.