(CN) — The United States marked the grim milestone of 200,000 coronavirus deaths Tuesday — more than any other country in the world and a figure unimaginable just nine months ago, when most of the world had never heard the word “Covid-19.”
The summer months continued a jarring trend of coronavirus deaths: According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the country’s death toll has more than doubled over the last four months. The toll is now larger than the number of American soldiers killed in World War I and the Vietnam War combined.
Despite accounting for only 4% of the world’s population, the U.S. has reported over 20% of global coronavirus deaths. With over 6.8 million confirmed cases, the U.S. also leads India (5.5 million) and Brazil (4.5 million) in cases by country.
Meanwhile global deaths are expected to soar past the 1 million mark as early as next week. Trailing the U.S. in total reported deaths is Brazil (137,000), India (88,000) and Mexico (73,000).
The alarming totals in the United States have been boosted in recent months by the persistent spread of the virus in the nation’s most populous state.
California leads all states with 790,000 confirmed cases. Over the weekend, the coronavirus death toll in the Golden State surpassed 15,000.
Though recent trends have improved, the state of 40 million has been battling a second round of summer outbreaks in cities like Los Angeles, Sacramento and the Central Valley region, forcing state officials to order another wave of pandemic-induced shutdowns.
The states of Texas (734,000), Florida (687,000), New York (451,000) and Georgia (307,000) round out the top five in terms of confirmed cases. New York meanwhile continues to report significantly more deaths than any other state with 33,000, followed by New Jersey at 16,000.
While California continues to hold the mantle of most infections, state officials said Tuesday they are encouraged enough by a recent drop in cases to allow a collection of counties to further their reopenings.
California Health and Human Services chief Mark Ghaly said the latest update of the state’s monitoring list carries good news for counties like San Diego, Alameda, Riverside, San Mateo and San Luis Obispo. The counties have been assigned to the second or “substantial” tier, which allows restaurants, places of worship, movie theaters and gyms to open indoors with reduced capacity.
Other major counties like Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Sacramento and Fresno remain in the most restrictive tier, but will be allowed to advance if their metrics remain stable over the next week. Ghaly added the state has given the OK for nail salons to reopen statewide, regardless of a county’s tier standing.
“I think good news all around,” Ghaly said in a press conference.
Under its new blueprint, the state places counties in one of four tiers based on two main metrics: number of new cases per 100,000 residents and the percentage of positive coronavirus tests.
Last week’s report had San Diego at risk of being the first county to drop a tier, as an outbreak at the campus of California State University, San Diego pushed it above the maximum 7 new cases per 100,000 residents. Over the last week county officials and business owners have been on edge, as dropping a tier would mean a third shutdown for the county of 3.3 million since March.
But San Diego was able to straddle the line, sneaking by with an official tally of 6.9 cases per 100,000.
Over 25 counties remain in the most restrictive purple tier. Another 18 have advanced into red and a collection of rural counties are in the orange and yellow categories.
Ghaly said Tuesday’s report shows “tremendous movement” but reiterated the real possibility for counties to backslide if a new outbreak sparks.
“We want to be slow and stringent so as we move forward, we can be best prepared in case we see some increase in transmission and it doesn’t cause us to take one giant step backward,” Ghaly said.
Statewide, hospitalizations are down 23% over the last two weeks and counties reported 2,600 new coronavirus cases Tuesday. On average it is taking the state 1.2 days to process Covid-19 test results and the state’s 14-day testing positivity rate — a key indicator of community spread of the virus — has sunk to 3%.
According to the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which has been tracking and modeling the pandemic since March, California’s death toll is expected to nearly triple to 43,800 by the end of the year. It also predicts the nation’s toll to steadily increase to a sobering 378,000 by Jan. 1.