The US is well on the way to having a coronavirus outbreak worse than China, or even Italy
- The World Health Organization has warned that the US could become the next center of the global coronavirus outbreak.
- Data shows that in China and Italy, the countries most severely affected by the outbreak, strict quarantining measures seemed to work - they cut the speed at which the disease spreads.
- That same data shows new infections in the US are growing so fast that the total is about to surpass both China and Italy.
- And yet, the federal government and the states have taken only a patchwork approach to curbing the virus.
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The World Health Organization on Wednesday warned that the US could become the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic - a prediction that every day looks closer to coming true. The US is only 6,219 infections behind China's total number of infections. China had 81,285 infections; the US has 75,066.
The WHO's warning was at odds with messages from the Trump administration. President Donald Trump at a White House press briefing on Monday floated plans to relax quarantines and "restart" the US economy by Easter.
Only 28 states have strict "lockdown" rules for their citizens. In many states, such as Florida, it is largely business as usual. Without the drastic measures taken by most European countries, first rolled out by China when the city of Wuhan was overwhelmed by the virus, the US now looks to be on course to surpass all these places in the scale of infections and deaths.
Below, Insider looks at the progress of the disease in some of the countries that have been most affected by the pandemic, and compares them to what is happening in the US.
The data is from the website Worldometer, which compiles live graphs based on the most recent data from public health authorities globally.
Let's look at the experience of other countries first:
The number of sick people in China is extremely low, after a sustained period of harsh quarantine
The data shows that infections peaked around mid-February, with 60,000 people infected. Strict quarantining measures covering 56 million people in Hubei, where the outbreak originated, were imposed in late January and are just beginning to lift.
Over the past month the number of people infected has steadily declined. According to the data, there are now just 3,947 active cases in the country.
- China: 3,287 deaths
The outbreak has killed 3,287 people in China, according to the data. Although the death toll was large, it is well below that of other countries with severe outbreaks. Italy and Spain both already have more dead.
After weeks of rising cases, Italy now appears to be stabilizing
Italy is the country that has been hit hardest, with 7,503 people killed from the nation's ageing population. Health services buckled in some regions because of the rapid spread of the disease.
The total number of cases recently in Italy recently reached 74,000 - on course to overtake China in a matter of days.
- Italy: 7,503 deaths
But the number of new cases recorded in the country has been declining or flat for several days now. The total number of currently active cases stands at around 57,521, according to the data. The problem is growing, but more slowly.
The crisis in Italy has led to many countries pushing to "flatten the curve": imposing harsh lockdowns to slow the rate of new infections and help health services cope. Italy imposed its national-scale lockdown on March 9.
Research in Wuhan has shown that large-scale social distancing measures are effective in reducing the number of people infected by a carrier of the virus, but take time.
Pinar Keskinocak, the director of the Center for Health and Humanitarian Systems at Georgia Tech, told Livescience that lockdowns can take from two to six weeks to have a noticeable effect.
That matches what happened in China, where coronavirus peaked around a month after its lockdown.
In Spain, authorities were slow to react, and the number of new cases and deaths is rapidly increasing
Spain is the second European country to record more deaths from the illness than China, with 4,089 now dead.
The response of the Spanish government to the crisis was slow, with authorities imposing quarantine measures with a lack of clear coordination. Hospitals have struggled to procure vital equipment. Daily new cases are rising in an unbroken curve.
- Spain: 4,089 deaths
The Spanish parliament in the early hours of Thursday extended its emergency measures until April 12, requiring people to stay at home and businesses to close.
In the US, the number of daily new infections is still increasing sharply. It is easy to forecast 1,000 deaths a day.
The total number of cases in the US currently stands at around 73,981. But unlike Italy, where the number of daily new cases has been declining, in the US it is sharply increasing.
This is because the US is at a different phase of the progress of the disease. It is still in the beginning part, where infections surge. The US has a far larger population than Italy, and more large, dense cities as well.
- United States: 1,037 deaths
According to Pantheon Macroeconomics, a US economics research consultancy, the number of deaths from the illness is doubling roughly every two and a half days, and by the end of next week could reach 1,000 deaths a day. Currently, the death rate is around 250 per day.
In the US there is no federal government quarantining order. Nor are there travel restrictions. Only one in three Americans is subject to a state lockdown order.
Instead, there is a 15-day advisory for people to stay at home and avoid non-essential contact with others. States such as New York have imposed their own legally enforceable quarantining orders, but many do not.
At the moment, the curves for both new cases and new deaths are rising fast:
President Trump has talked about easing restrictions in the US in as little as two weeks. It's a move that experts told The Washington Post could be disastrous, and could put the country on a harsher trajectory than China, Italy, or Spain.
As the cases of China and Italy show, it's only when tough quarantining measures are put in place and given time to work that infections decline.
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