In its most recent press conference on Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that the United States has the potential to become a new epicenter for the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The organization pointed to a “very large acceleration” in infections taking place in the states and an inadequate containment strategy.
WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told reporters that over 85 percent of the new cases worldwide in the past 24 hours were from the United States or Europe, and nearly half of those cases, about 40 percent, were from the United States.
“We are now seeing a very large acceleration in cases in the U.S. So it does have that potential. We cannot say that is the case yet but it does have that potential. …They (the United States) have a very large outbreak and an outbreak that is increasing in intensity,” Harris said, according to Reuters.
The United States government has implemented social distancing measures for about a week, but the specifics of these measures vary from state to state. However, earlier this week, the WHO warned that social distancing was not enough and that aggressively testing and isolating the cases should be a top priority. In the United States, officials have opted to only test people if they are asymptomatic, which leaves many potential carriers unaware that they are infecting others.
US President Donald Trump is eager to see Americans go back to work and get life back to normal. In recent statements, the president has suggested that the country could be back to work as soon as next week, because the potential damage to the economy caused by social distancing measures could end up being worse than the virus itself. However, the president will likely face resistance from many state governors who have taken it upon themselves to enforce quarantine measures locally.
The US currently has more than 49,500 confirmed cases and over 600 people have lost their lives from the illness, which means the country has the third most cases in the world, only behind China and Italy. However, it is estimated that there are far more cases than are being counted. Some experts and health officials believe that there are already hundreds of thousands of cases. Dr. Marty Makary, a medical professor at Johns Hopkins University, estimates that there could be up to a half-million cases in the US.
“Don’t believe the numbers when you see, even on our Johns Hopkins website, that 1,600 Americans have the virus. No, that means 1,600 got the test, tested positive. There are probably 25 to 50 people who have the virus for every one person who is confirmed,” Makary said.
Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton estimated that there were at least 100,000 undiagnosed cases just in the state of Ohio.
Meanwhile, all over the world, large events are being canceled and entire countries are being shut down, with international and domestic travel both being heavily restricted. This week, the Tokyo Olympics have been postponed until 2021, and India announced that the country’s 1.4 billion people will be on lockdown until further notice to prevent the spread of the virus.