WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG, AFP) - US President Donald Trump on Tuesday (May 19) said it's "a badge of honour" that the US has more than 1.5 million cases of coronavirus - the highest number of infections globally - as coronavirus-related deaths among Americans are projected to surpass 113,000 by mid-June.
"I view it as a badge of honour, really, it's a badge of honour," Mr Trump told reporters during a cabinet meeting at the White House on Tuesday. "It's a great tribute to the testing and all of the work that a lot of professionals have done."
The United States has recorded more than 1.5 million confirmed Covid-19 infections and 91,600 fatalities as of Tuesday, but a projection compiled from nine models from separate institutions predicted roughly 22,000 more Americans would succumb to the disease over the next 25 days.
"The new forecast for cumulative US deaths by June 13 is about 113,000, with a 10 per cent chance of seeing fewer than about 107,000 and a 10 per cent chance of seeing more than 121,000," the Covid-19 Forecast Hub at the University of Massachusetts said on its website.
The specific ensemble forecast average is 113,364 deaths by that date.
The US has also performed more than 11.8 million tests for infection by the virus, according to the Covid Tracking Project, after the government experienced delays in getting tests developed and manufactured.
The country continues to face testing shortages and sets priorities for who gets one. However, contrary to Mr Trump's claim, US testing levels aren't extraordinary.
The US trails countries like the UK, Italy and Germany in tests conducted per 1,000 people, Bloomberg data show.
And it is finding a case for every 7.8 tests, far behind other countries like New Zealand, Australia and South Korea, who have to test far higher numbers of people to find a case, according to figures compiled by Our World In Data.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said the US has conducted a reported 11.3 million tests, though Mr Trump said he believed the number was closer to 14 million.
"If you're testing 14 million people, you're going to find many more cases," Mr Trump said. "Many of these people aren't very sick but they still go down as a case, so, actually, the number of cases - and we're also a much bigger country than most. So when we have a lot of cases, I don't look at that as a bad thing, I look at that as, in a certain respect, as being a good thing because it means our testing is much better."&
Mr Trump's remarks come as most US states take steps - some minor, some more substantial - to re-open their shuttered economies and communities while facing the challenge of instilling confidence among Americans that it is safe to begin returning to normal.
The US government in April released guidelines on phased re-openings that included criteria which individual states were expected to meet before they began returning to normal, including a downward trajectory of new cases over a 14-day period.
Several states have been accused of re-opening despite failing to meet the specific criteria.
Hopes of curtailing the pandemic have proven elusive.
Two weeks ago, Mr Trump said the US will lose "anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people."
On April 10 he predicted US virus deaths would be "substantially below the 100,000" figure, and perhaps even as low as half that.
The novel coronavirus has killed more than 322,000 people worldwide since it was detected in Wuhan, China late last year.