The United States surpassed Italy in COVID-19 fatalities on Saturday to become the nation with the highest number of reported virus deaths worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins data.
Italy has counted 152,271 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 19,468 deaths, while the U.S. has counted 522,286 infections and 20,283 deaths as of late Saturday afternoon.
As the world watched the crisis in Italy unfold in March, it was seen as a warning for America. Italian hospitals were overrun by patients within a matter of weeks between February and March because the country mobilized against the virus a little too slowly, and people started taking heed of stay-at-home orders a little too late.
Meanwhile, instead of making urgent preparations at the appropriate scale, reports indicate that US President Donald Trump spent two months downplaying the threat of the virus until it began putting a heavy strain on health care systems in major cities.
The U.S., once considered to be two weeks behind Italy, rapidly caught up with the European country’s grim stats. Deaths have been increasing around three times faster in the U.S. compared to Italy in the past week, The Associated Press reported.
There was some hopeful news out of the hardest-hit state of New York, which has recorded 8,627 deaths as of Saturday afternoon. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Saturday morning that the number of new cases requiring hospitalization has begun to plateau, meaning that fatalities may finally begin to slow down in the coming weeks. He cautioned against expecting businesses to reopen at the start of May, however.
Other regions across the country are bracing for a potential surge in patients ― and they may be less prepared to handle them, particularly in rural areas where hospitals are few and far between. The U.S. remains short on tests for the people who need them and short on personal protective equipment for medical professionals at the front lines.
On Friday, Trump described the virus as “a brilliant enemy,” saying there’s “a whole genius to it.”