The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the US has surpassed any other affected country’s on March 26.
With more than 86,000 positive tests, the US has overtaken China (81,782 cases) and Italy (80,589), according to the latest figures collated by Johns Hopkins University.
However, with almost 1,300 Covid-19-related fatalities, the US death toll lags behind China (3,291) and Italy (8,215).
The grim milestone came as President Donald Trump predicted the nation would get back to work “pretty quickly”.
Asked about the latest figures at a White House briefing on March 26, President Trump said it was “a tribute to the amount of testing that we’re doing”.
VP Mike Pence said coronavirus tests were now available in all 50 states and more than 552,000 tests had been conducted nationwide.
President Trump also cast doubt on the figures coming out of Beijing, telling reporters: “You don’t know what the numbers are in China.”
Later, the president tweeted that he had had a “very good conversation” with China’s President Xi Jinping.
He said: “China has been through much & has developed a strong understanding of the Virus. We are working closely together. Much respect!”
President Trump has set a much-criticized goal of Easter Sunday, 12 April, for reopening the country. That plan seemed to gather impetus on March 26 as it emerged an unprecedented 3.3 million Americans have been laid off because of the virus.
At March 26 briefing, he said: “They [the American people] have to go back to work, our country has to go back, our country is based on that and I think it’s going to happen pretty quickly.
“We may take sections of our country, we may take large sections of our country that aren’t so seriously affected and we may do it that way.”
He added: “A lot of people misinterpret when I say go back – they’re going to be practicing as much as you can social distancing, and washing your hands and not shaking hands and all of the things we talked about.”
President Trump promised more details next week.
In a letter to state governors on March 26, President Trump said his team plans to release federal social distancing guidelines that may advise some regions to loosen restrictions.
He wrote of a “long battle ahead” and said “robust” testing protocols might allow some counties to lift their safeguards against the coronavirus.
President Trump said the “new guidelines” would create low, medium and high risk zones that would allow the government to advise on “maintaining, increasing, or relaxing social distancing and other mitigation measures they have put in place”.
On March 26, President Trump phoned in to Fox News host Sean Hannity’s program and said he believed Iowa, Idaho, Nebraska and parts of Texas could reopen earlier than other states.
The plan emerged as new research on March 26 estimated Covid-19-related deaths in the US could top 80,000 over the coming four months – even if people observe strict social distancing.
According to the study from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine, as many as 2,300 patients could be dying every day by April.