US becomes the first country to reach 100,000 confirmed coronavirus cases

The U.S. on Friday became the first country to record 100,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

As testing expands rapidly across the nation, the U.S. is seeing huge daily spikes in the number of reported cases. There were about 10,000 cases in the country as recently as a week ago, according to the Johns Hopkins University dashboard.

But the number broke six figures on Friday shortly after 6 p.m. ET, up from 83,300 a day earlier. That number is expected to rise steadily in the coming days and weeks, and health officials say the number of cases is likely higher due to lack of testing.

Since the country's first reported death on Feb. 29, at least 1,544 have died in the U.S.  Around the globe, more than 26,000 people have died.  

Cases have been reported in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. New York has by far the most reported cases, followed by New Jersey, California, Washington and Michigan.

While the U.S. has the most confirmed cases of the new virus, the U.S. has also conducted more coronavirus tests than any other country.

The CDC has not published an official count of nationwide coronavirus tests, but Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, told reporters on Tuesday that the U.S. had conducted more than 370,000 tests. By Friday, the COVID Tracking Project, an online effort started by two journalists to track the number of tests conducted in the U.S., said that more than 620,000 tests had been completed.

The U.S., with a population of about 329 million, is not leading the world in the number of tests conducted per capita. South Korea, a country of about 51 million, had tested more than 370,000 people as of Friday, according to health officials. Italy, which has a population of 60 million and has reported the most coronavirus-related deaths, had tested more than 390,000 people, according to health officials.

About 95% of testing in the U.S. is being done in commercial labs, and the $2.2 trillion stimulus package approved earlier in the day will require those labs to report total testing numbers, Birx said in a White House press briefing Friday. Since the bill was passed today, Birx said she expects the commerical lab data "tomorrow."

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As the U.S. attempts to expand testing capabilities, medical professionals are stretched thin and supplies are in high demand. New York for instance, has asked for 30,000 ventilators, a request that President Donald Trump questioned.

States and cities across the country have instituted shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. Public gatherings have been largely banned around the world as authorities try to persuade people to follow the protocols.

How did the coronavirus start?

As with SARS and MERS, the new coronavirus has its origin in bats, and scientists suspect the virus was initially transmitted to another animal – an "intermediary host" – before it spread to humans. In the case of SARS, that host was a civet cat. For MERS, it was a camel.

Early reports of the new coronavirus emerged in December 2019 and have been linked to a market in Wuhan, China. Scientists suspect that an animal spread the virus to a person at that market, and that that person spread the virus to other people. The intermediate host may have been a domestic animal, a wild animal or a domesticated wild animal, according to the World Health Organization.

How is the coronavirus spread?

Scientists think the virus spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. People are thought to be the most contagious when they are the sickest, but some spread might be possible before people show symptoms, according to the CDC.

A person can get the virus by touching a surface that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes, according to the CDC.

How do I get a coronavirus test?

If you have symptoms and want to get tested, the CDC recommends calling your state or local health department or a medical provider.

At this time, the CDC recommends that clinicians prioritize testing hospitalized patients and symptomatic healthcare workers. Second-level priority includes patients in long-term care facilities with symptoms, patients 65 years of age and older with symptoms, patients with underlying conditions with symptoms and first responders with symptoms.

Not sure if you should get tested? The CDC website features a "self-checker" to help you make decisions about seeking medical care. The feature is not intended for the diagnosis or treatment of COVID-19 and is intended only for people in the U.S.


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