The U.S. death toll from the novel coronavirus is expected to reach 50,000 on Friday, doubling in 10 days and the highest in the world, according to a Reuters tally.
About 875,000 Americans have contracted the highly contagious respiratory illness COVID-19 caused by the virus, and on average, about 2,000 have died every day this month, according to a Reuters tally.
The true number of cases is thought to be higher, with state public health officials cautioning that shortages of trained workers and materials have limited testing capacity.
Deaths are also likely higher, as most states only count hospital and nursing home victims and not those who died at home. About 40% of the deaths have happened in New York state, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, followed by New Jersey, Michigan, and Massachusetts.
When U.S. coronavirus deaths reach 50,000, fatalities would exceed the total number of American lives lost in the 1950-53 Korea War – 36,516. The total would also exceed deaths from the seasonal flu in seven out of nine recent seasons, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Flu deaths range from a low of 12,000 in 2011-2012 to a high of 61,000 lives lost in the 2017-2018 season.
Coronavirus deaths in the United States fall far short of the Spanish flu, which began in 1918 and killed 675,000 Americans, according to the CDC.
Globally, coronavirus has claimed nearly 190,000 lives since the outbreak began in China late last year. The United States, with the world’s third-largest population, has twice as many deaths as the next hardest-hit countries of Italy at 25,549, Spain at 22,157, and France at 21,856.
Of the top 20 most severely affected countries, the United States ranks ninth based on deaths per capita, according to a Reuters tally. The United States has 1.5 deaths per 10,000 people. Belgium ranks first at over five deaths per 10,000 people, followed by Spain, Italy, France, and the United Kingdom.
Unprecedented stay-at-home orders issued to try to curb the spread of the virus have hammered the economy, with the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits over the last five weeks soaring to 26.5 million.
While some states have said they plan to begin reopening their economies over the coming weeks, health experts and some governors have warned that a premature easing of restrictions on movement could trigger a surge in new cases.
A Reuters/Ipsos survey this month found that a bipartisan majority of Americans want to continue to shelter in place to protect themselves from the coronavirus, despite the impact on the economy.