The number of people who have died from the novel coronavirus in the United States exceeded 50,000 Friday, marking the latest in a series of morbid milestones for the country hardest hit by the pandemic.
The death toll, based on reporting from Johns Hopkins University, remains the highest in the world and is nearly twice that of Italy, which had been the country with the most fatal cases until it was surpassed by the U.S. earlier this month.
As of 11 a.m. ET on April 24, it stood at 50,031 deaths.
Nearly a third of those deaths have been reported in New York City alone, which has seen over 16,000 fatalities. The state at large has seen an additional 4,200 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.
Overall, nearly 870,000 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the U.S. Cases have been confirmed in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., as well as in U.S. territories like Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands.
The case total is quadruple the number reported in Spain, the country with the second-highest total in the world at over 213,000. The U.S also accounts for nearly a third of the over 2.7 million cases worldwide.
Data from the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention shows the numbers of cases and deaths have continued to rise at a steady pace throughout the month of April.
Yet Vice President Mike Pence, the leader of the country’s coronavirus task force, said Thursday that the same data is showing “promising signs of progress” that several states, including New York, appear to be “past their peaks.”
He also said hospital admissions are declining, and that Americans are helping lower the spread of transmission by following physical distancing guidelines.
“Our only conclusion is that we’re getting there, America,” he said. “We’re making meaningful progress, in a very real sense sparing Americans to be exposed to the coronavirus, and to no less extent saving lives.”
Pence added that 16 states have so far released formal guidelines on reopening their economies and easing physical distancing measures, following the three-phase plan released by the federal government last week.
Some governors have already begun easing up their restrictions, despite warnings from health authorities that it may be too soon to do so without sparking a second wave of infections. In Georgia, gyms, hair salons and bowling alleys can reopen Friday. Texas has reopened its state parks.
Other states not mentioned by Pence, including California and Washington, have indeed seen success in controlling their outbreaks, which were among the first in the U.S.
Yet in California, new reports suggest people may have been dying from the coronavirus up to three weeks before official tallies began. Two people died in early February, roughly a week apart, from symptoms now linked to COVID-19.
Officials said Wednesday the deaths were missed due to unavailable testing. Had it been in place at that time, they said, it may have led to earlier statewide restrictions that could have controlled the spread earlier and even saved lives.
—With files from the Associated Press