Cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. surged past 55,000 on Wednesday, while the death toll has climbed past 800, with 354 recoveries, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.
Nearly half of the total U.S. cases are in New York, which has reported more than 260 deaths, as of Wednesday. U.S. health experts from the COVID-19 virus task force led by Vice President Mike Pence, are "deeply concerned" about the outbreak in New York.
While cases in the U.S. continue to rise, it is unclear how many in the U.S. have officially recovered from infection. Speaking to Newsweek, a spokesperson for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it does not "have the current numbers for recovered patients at this time, and CDC has not included this data in our ongoing case counts as of yet" but the CDC "may put it [the data on recoveries] together in the future."
The World Health Organization warned on Tuesday that the country has the potential to experience a widespread outbreak. When asked whether the U.S. could become the new epicenter of the virus, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told reporters: "We are now seeing a very large acceleration in cases in the U.S. So it does have that potential," Reuters reports.
The virus, which was first reported in Wuhan, a city in China's Hubei province, has affected more than 435,000 people across 170 countries, while over 111,000 have recovered. More infections have been reported outside China than within.
The country has more than 81,600 cases, with around 3,200 fatalities and nearly 73,000 recoveries. China, which from today has lifted outbound travel restrictions in Hubei, claims the outbreak has been mostly contained.
Birx noted at the briefing: "We remain deeply concerned about New York City and the New York metro area. About 56 percent of all the cases in the United States are coming out of that metro area, and 60 percent of all the new cases are coming out of the metro New York area, and 31 percent of the people succumbing to this disease.
"It means, because they [New York] still are at 31 percent mortality compared to the other regions of the country, that we can have a huge impact if we unite together. This means, as in all places, they [New Yorkers] have to be following the presidential guidelines that were put out eight or nine days ago. And this will be critical," she added.
Fauci added: "It's a very serious situation [in New York]...what we're seeing now is that, understandably, people want to get out of New York. They're going to Florida. They're going to Long Island...when they go to another place, for their own safety, they've got to be careful, monitor themselves.
"Self-isolating for two weeks will be very important, because we don't want that to be another seeding point to the rest of the country, wherever they go."
The U.S. conducted 370,000 virus tests, the majority of which were done in the last eight days, Birx confirmed at the Tuesday White House press briefing.
"The majority of thoseover 220,000 in the last eight days, which, those of you who have been tracking the South Korea numbers, put us equivalent to what they did in eight weeks that we did in eight days," she said at the briefing.
Birx also noted that the government is working on being able to allow people to take their own sample for testing. "That does not mean home testing. That means taking your own sample in the front of your nose with available swabs into normal saline that can be transported to the laboratories," she explained.
"That will allow and free up all of the drive-throughs to be very sparing on PPE [personal protective equipment], because you'll be able to do that with gloves rather than the full PPE outfits. This will allow for more of that PPE to be dedicated to our hospitals," she added.
The death count in the country has soared past 800. New York, Washington state and California have dominated the death count, but Louisiana and New Jersey have also seen a surge.
Louisiana is reported to have the third highest rate of confirmed cases per capita, after New York and Washington state, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards confirmed in a letter to President Donald Trump requesting approval for a disaster declaration in the state.
"I have determined that this incident [the outbreak] is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of state and local governments," the governor noted.
The cases were reported to be concentrated in the New Orleans region, which is expected to run out of hospital capacity for patients by April 4, the governor confirmed.
New Jersey has also seen a sharp rise in cases recently, with 800 new cases from Monday to Tuesday, bringing its total cases to 3,675, with 45 deaths, as of Wednesday, according to the state's department of health.
New Jersey has the second highest number of cases in the country and its cases increased tenfold last week, CNN reports.
The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the spread of COVID-19 across the U.S.
Data on COVID-19 cases is from Johns Hopkins University unless otherwise stated.