The U.S. surpassed Italy in number of confirmed deaths on April 11

By Julie Mazziotta
Updated May 13, 2020 10:58 AM
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Confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths in the U.S., as of the morning of May 13
Martin Schwartz/PEOPLE

Updates: 

  • There are now at least 1,376,700 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, the most worldwide
  • At least 82,355 people in the U.S. have died from coronavirus-related illness
  • The U.S. has the most cases and deaths in the world, with over 1 million cases as of April 28
  • Worldwide, there are now 4,292,139 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 293,241 deaths
  • Italy officially surpassed China in number of deaths related to the virus on March 19, but on April 11, the U.S. became the country with the most deaths

The first cases of a mysterious respiratory illness — what is now known as COVID-2019, a form of coronavirus — began in Wuhan, China in late December. Since then, the virus has spread worldwide, leading the World Health Organization to declare a public health emergency, the first since the zika epidemic in 2016.

At first, this coronavirus was contained to China, but Wuhan is a major transportation hub with hundreds of flights leaving and landing from the city of 11 million each day. Soon, as people flew from the area to different countries, the coronavirus reached more countries, including the United States.

As of the morning of May 13, there have been at least 1,376,700 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., and 82,355 deaths related to the virus, according to The New York Times. The U.S. now has the highest number of cases worldwide by a large margin, though the true numbers are likely far higher because sufficient testing has not been available.

The first case was found in Everett, Washington, just outside of Seattle, in a man who had recently returned from Wuhan. The number of cases grew slowly from there, with a total of just 14 over the course of about a month, but as February came to an end, the virus began to spread more rapidly in communities across the U.S.

On Feb. 26, California health officials announced the first case of community spread — meaning someone had contracted coronavirus despite no recent travel, and had likely unknowingly come in contact with someone with the disease. From there, the number of U.S. cases jumped up, particularly in densely-populated areas like New York and Michigan.

The first death in the U.S. was initially believed to be on Feb. 29, in a Washington state woman in her 50s with pre-existing health conditions. But in April, California health officials determined that the first known death due to the virus actually occurred weeks earlier, on Feb. 6, in a 57-year-old woman from San Jose.

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By the end of March, the number of cases and deaths in the U.S. exploded. On March 26, the number of deaths in the U.S. topped 1,000. By March 31, that number had tripled.

On April 28, the number of cases in the U.S. surpassed 1 million.

President Donald Trump says that the White House’s coronavirus task force's current model projects that up to 100,000 Americans could die from the COVID-19 outbreak.

Confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths worldwide, as of the morning of May 13
Martin Schwartz/PEOPLE

Worldwide, there are now at least 4,292,139 cases of coronavirus, and 293,241 deaths. The vast majority of cases and deaths had been confined to mainland China until the last three weeks, when major outbreaks occurred in South Korea, Italy and Iran. On March 19, Italy surpassed China in the number of deaths.

On April 2, the worldwide number of confirmed cases topped 1 million. It hit 2 million on April 15.

The increase in cases outside of China led the CDC to urge Americans to start preparing for the virus to spread in the U.S. with the “expectation that this will be bad.”

“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country anymore but a question of when this will happen,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, said in a press briefing on Feb. 25.

On March 11, President Donald Trump announced a ban on travel from the U.S. to Europe for 30 days to “keep new cases from entering our shores.” The CDC had already recommended that Americans cancel any non-essential travel to China, Iran, Italy and South Korea, and urged older Americans to avoid going to Japan. Additionally, they restricted foreign nationals from China and Iran from entering the U.S.

The U.S., Canada and Mexico also mutually agreed to close the shared borders to non-essential travel.

Trump declared a national state of emergency in the U.S. on March 13 as the number of cases rise. However, the true number of cases is unknown, largely due to a delay in available testing kits from the government.

Though China, Italy and several other nations with high case totals have enforced full lockdowns on citizens, Trump has declined to do so in the U.S. Instead, many states, counties and cities have chosen to implement “stay at home” orders, limiting residents with non-essential jobs from leaving their homes, except for groceries and other vital tasks.

At the end of April, several states began allowing businesses to reopen, despite warnings from health experts that social distancing is still needed to avoid a resurgence of infections.

The CDC also says that the best prevention methods, other than social distancing, are basic forms of hygiene — careful handwashing, avoiding touching the face, moving away from people who are coughing or sneezing and staying home at signs of illness. As of April 3, the health agency also recommended that Americans wear masks when going outside.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.