On Thursday, the United States passed an unfortunate milestone in the global fight against the novel coronavirus: in confirmed cases, the world leader.
On Thursday afternoon around 3 p.m. PT, USA, reports 82,404 confirmed coronavirus cases in China's 81,782, according to a popular COVID-19 tracking tool from Johns Hopkins. Italy, which has been viewed as the world's emerging hotspot in recent weeks, dropped to third place with 80,589 cases.
As the US scientific community has been warning for some time, there is no lower number of cases, which is not necessarily better. Widespread testing is one of the most effective ways to curb an early epidemic, but it can also increase the number compared to countries where fewer tests are done. Without complete population-wide tests, case counts are a sample of a particular population that has been tested and are not a complete picture of the situation on the ground. Tests are not readily available in some parts of the United States. At a hospital in Queens, potential COVID-19 sufferers were waiting for hours to be tested this week, and many were still being refused.
While the country's most affected areas are still struggling to accommodate an alarming influx of COVID-19 patients, tests are becoming more widely available. Test availability increased dramatically last week after a fiddly federal response caused a delay in the delivery of tests to healthcare providers – a critical factor in the explosion of coronavirus cases the US is dealing with today.