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US death toll from COVID-19 passes 250,000

A record of nearly 77,000 people are currently hospitalized with the coronavirus, which has already killed more than a quarter-million people in America.

WASHINGTON — More than 250,000 people have reportedly died from the coronavirus in the United States since the virus spread through the country at the beginning of 2020.

Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker claims nearly 11.5 million Americans have tested positive for the virus, with the death toll reaching at least 250,029 on Wednesday. 

A record 76,958 were hospitalized as of Tuesday, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

COVID-19 is spreading more rapidly across the U.S. than it has at any time since the pandemic started. Deaths are also on the rise, though not at the record high numbers reached in the spring. The United States leads in the number or deaths and cases. Worldwide the outbreak has killed more than 1.3 million people and more than 55 million people have tested positive.

This chart shows the pace at which the U.S. has reported each one-millionth COVID-19 case.

  • 1st case (Jan. 22)
  • 1 million: 97 days (April 28)
  • 2 million: 44 days (June 6)
  • 3 million: 27 days (July 8)
  • 4 million: 15 days (July 23)
  • 5 million: 17 days (Aug. 9)
  • 6 million: 22 days (Aug. 31)
  • 7 million: 25 days (Sept. 25)
  • 8 million: 21 days (Oct. 16)
  • 9 million: 14 days (Oct. 30)
  • 10 million: 10 days (Nov. 9)
  • 11 million: 6 days (Nov. 15)

The real number of people infected by the virus around the world is believed to be much higher — perhaps 10 times higher in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — given testing limitations and the many mild cases that have gone unreported or unrecognized.

A University of North Dakota nursing student who volunteered as contact tracer wrote in the Washington Post Wednesday that the virus has gotten so rampant there, her managers gave up asking patients for their contacts.

"So many people tested positive that we were entering a triage situation," wrote Kailee Leingang.

Credit: AP
North Dakota National Guard soldiers Spc. Samantha Crabbe, left, and Master Sgt. Melanie Vincent administer COVID-19 tests, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020, inside the Bismarck Events Center in Bismarck, N.D. (Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune via AP)

Governors and mayors across the U.S. have started ratcheting up restrictions ahead of Thanksgiving. A vaccine appears to be on the horizon after two companies announced that early trials show their versions are 95% effective. But the powerful freezers needed to store one of the vaccines. Also, protective equipment for the workers and the task of getting the vaccine into every community and administering the shots are becoming logistical and financial challenges.

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For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms like fever, cough and shortness of breath. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

The CDC said the best way to prevent getting sick or spreading COVID-19 is by washing hands often, avoiding close contact with individuals and wearing face coverings or masks when around others.