(CBSDFW.COM/CNN) — The U.S. topped 5 million cases of coronavirus early Sunday — and as experts have highlighted before, the true number of infections could be many times higher.
The number means the country holds about a quarter of global cases of the virus and also tops the list with the most reported deaths in the world. Of the country’s 5,022,187 estimated cases, 162,696 have been deadly, according to data collected by John Hopkins University.
To put the number in perspective, that means the United States has had more COVID-19 cases than Ireland has people. The number of cases is also slightly higher than the entire population of Alabama.
To put the speed in which the number is growing in perspective: It took the country 99 days to reach 1 million, 43 days to hit 2 million, 28 days for 3 million and 15 days to surpass 4 million on July 23. The number has jumped to 5 million in 17 days.
The pandemic shows no sign of slowing, and deaths continue to climb, with more than 1,000 deaths reported each day over the last five days, according to data from Johns Hopkins University’s COVID Tracker. Since July 21, there have only been four days the U.S. did not report more than 1,000 deaths.
As of this week, five states account for more than 40% of U.S. infections: California (with the most cases in the country), Florida, Texas, New York and Georgia.
New York, once the country’s epicenter, has been surpassed by several states that have seen cases spikes in recent months. On Sunday, the state reported the day prior’s positivity rate — how many people are testing positive compared to how many were tested — was 0.78%, the lowest one-day positive infection rate since the pandemic began, according to the governor’s office.
“Our daily numbers remain low and steady, despite increasing infection rates across the country, and even in our region — and we had the lowest one-day positive rate since we started,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement Sunday. “That’s an incredible achievement, all thanks to the hard work of New Yorkers.”
California, reporting more than 7,000 cases Saturday for a total of more than 545,000, had a positivity rate of about 6% over the past two weeks, according to health officials. Hospitalizations across the state are dropping, and there are about 5,746 hospitalized patients — down more than 1,000 from two weeks ago.
In Texas, the governor extended his disaster declaration as the state reported its highest seven-day positivity rate: 19.41%. The previous high, 17.43%, was recorded around mid-July. More than 481,000 infections have been reported statewide and about 7,872 people remain in hospitals.
Thousands gather in small South Dakota city
As the virus runs rampant through many U.S. communities, visitors have poured into a South Dakota city for the 80th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
The state has so far recorded one of the lowest number of cases with about 9,477 infections, according to the state’s health department.
The event, hosted in the city of about 7,000, brings in hundreds of thousands of people each year. While officials say this year will be a scaled-back version, people are still expected from all over the country — including hotspots such as Florida, Texas and Arizona.
In nearby campgrounds, there will be concerts, races and contests every day. City officials say they have recommended social distancing guidelines and capacity limits for bars and restaurants, but none of that is legally enforceable, City Manager Daniel Ainslie told CNN.
Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease professor at Emory University, isn’t worried about the rally itself because it will mostly be outside, he said. Instead, he said he fears what will happen after-hours, when people go to restaurants, bars and begin congregating indoors.
“I’m quite concerned that this event could potentially be a disaster,” he said. “There could not only be a lot of transmission there, but a lot of people could get infected there and go back to their home states and take the virus over there.”
The event runs through August 16.
Schools begin welcoming students back
As schools reopen for classes, researchers are still working to understand the spread and effects of the virus when it comes to children.
Research has shown older children can transmit coronavirus just like adults, and another study said children younger than 5 have a higher viral load from the virus in their noses compared to older children and adults, also raising questions about how likely they are to transmit the virus.
While some U.S. officials have said an infection poses less risks to younger populations, a 7-year-old boy with no underlying health conditions died in Georgia last week, becoming the youngest victim in the state. Earlier this month, two teenagers died in Florida from coronavirus complications, bringing the state’s total number of minors who have died in relation to the virus to seven.
With a positivity rate of less than 1%, New York has cleared all school districts across the state to reopen, Cuomo said Friday, adding that plans may change if infection rates begin spiking again ahead of the scheduled reopenings.
In Texas, state officials said school boards should make the decisions on reopening for the new year, with districts also being allowed to begin their years with virtual learning only. After that, schools can give parents the option of having their children take part in remote or in-person learning.
Texas schools will be required to follow guidelines to mitigate the spread of the virus, along with having plans in the event of a positive test or outbreak.
In Georgia, many schools have already reopened.
At North Paulding High School, which suspended then “rescinded” the suspension of a student who posted a photo of its crowded hallways, six students and three staffers have contracted the virus, according to a letter the principal sent to parents, which was obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
At least 260 students and eight teachers in the Cherokee County School District were quarantined after multiple students and teachers tested positive for the virus during the first week of school. In a statement on its website, the district, which is north of the city of Atlanta, reported positive cases in at least 11 students and two staff members. Among them was a second-grader who tested positive for the virus after the first day of school.
Northeast of Atlanta, Barrow County Schools announced the district would start the year virtually after more than 90 staff members were forced to quarantine because they had a confirmed or suspected case of the virus, or were exposed to someone who did.
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