WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG, AFP) - American deaths from the coronavirus have topped 20,000, surpassing Italy's, and affirming the US position as the epicentre of the global pandemic.
Deaths from the virus in the US on Saturday (April 11) has now claimed the lives of at least 20,506 people, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The US recorded 1,920 deaths over the past 24 hours, as of 8.30pm local time on Saturday.
The US also leads the world in the number of confirmed infections, with 527,111 by the Baltimore-based school’s count.
Italy, the hardest-hit country in Europe with a population a fifth the size of the US, had almost 19,500 fatalities.
The heavy toll in the US - and much of Europe - is linked to the failure to enact widespread measures like mass testing and social distancing early enough to prevent the virus from taking hold.
Parts of the US were still not locked down in recent days, creating the opportunity for wider spread in places that have not suffered as much as hot spots in New York and Detroit.
That the US has more deaths than Italy is not that surprising given that its population of 330 million is five times greater. The statistics may also be incomplete, thanks to differences in testing and reporting among countries.
Yet the US had ample time to see what was coming, as China writhed under the pandemic in January and then Europe began suffering just weeks later.
Critics have charged the US with squandering precious time that could have been spent building testing capacity or stockpiling medical supplies that are now hard to find.
By Feb 26, Italy was locking down whole towns and regions beset by the virus.
That day, President Donald Trump said at a White House press briefing that the US had the situation "so well under control".
There were only 15 cases of coronavirus across the country, he said, and "we're going very substantially down, not up".
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has chided the US, along with China, as they blame one another for the severity of the epidemic.
The two superpowers must show "honest leadership" or risk turning the outbreak into an even bigger crisis, he said at a briefing on April 8.