World coronavirus cases pass 1 million mark

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More than 1 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 have now been reported worldwide.

As of today (April 2), the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has spread to 204 countries and regions, sickened 1,001,079 and killed 51,385, according to Worldometer, which relies on multiple data sources to track the virus spread. Roughly a month ago, on March 5, the worldwide case count came in at 96,888, Live Science reported

The earliest known case of the novel coronavirus dates back to Nov. 17, 2019, when a 55-year-old individual from Hubei province in China contracted the disease. The case count in China reached 27 by Dec. 15, and climbed to 60 by Dec. 20, according to the South China Morning Post. Now, more than three months later, China is reporting 81,589 of COVID-19, 3,318 people have died from the disease, and 76,408 have recovered after being diagnosed with a confirmed case. 

Early data from China suggested that the mortality rate of COVID-19 fell between 2% and 3.4%, but with more cases accounted for, scientists now estimate the death rate to be lower — between 0.66% and 1.38%, depending on the number of mild or asymptomatic infections that went undiagnosed. 

The United States, Italy and Spain have each overtaken China both in terms of the total number of confirmed cases and total deaths in each country; even so, classified documents reported by trusted news outlets question the validity of China’s confirmed coronavirus numbers. France has also reported more deaths than those reported in China, although the country’s overall case count falls more than 22,000 short of China’s total. 

The U.S. now represents the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic with 235,747 confirmed cases and 5,624 deaths associated with the virus so far. Recent modeling studies suggest that, even with stay-at-home and other social-distancing measures in place, as many as 200,000 people in the U.S. could die from COVID-19, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. 

“I think it’s entirely conceivable that if we do not mitigate to the extent that we’re trying to do that you could reach that number,” Fauci said, according to The New York Times. Without any measures in place, between 1.6 million and 2.2 million people could die from the virus nationwide, said Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the lead coordinator of the White House’s coronavirus task force, the Times reported. 

Even with more and more states instituting strict social-distancing measures, health officials won’t know where the country stands in terms of coronavirus infections until diagnostic testing becomes easily accessible. Efforts to improve the country’s testing capacity have ramped up significantly in recent weeks, and antibody tests to determine who has been exposed to the virus are in development. One town in Colorado already has antibody tests available and aims to test every resident for the virus.

Only once diagnostic and antibody tests become widely available can the U.S. track how the outbreak is actually progressing and whether the current surge of confirmed cases is nearing its peak.

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Originally published on Live Science. 

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