The global death toll from COVID-19 has climbed over 900,000, with the United States accounting for more than a fifth of the fatalities, NBC News figures showed Thursday.
Seven months after President Donald Trump privately told journalist Bob Woodward that the coronavirus was “deadly stuff,” the U.S. was leading the world with nearly 192,000 deaths and 6.4 million infections, the latest figures showed.
Brazil, India, Mexico and the United Kingdom were next in the numbers of deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 dashboard.
And this month, a research outfit that the Trump administration once relied on warned that nearly 3 million people will “most likely” die worldwide by the end of the year if governments don’t tighten social distancing requirements and people aren’t more vigilant about wearing masks.
“The worst is yet to come,” Dr. Christopher Murray, of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, warned.
Over the last two weeks, the U.S. has averaged 800 COVID-19 deaths per day, which is down from August when public health officials were reporting 1,000 fatalities a day, according to NBC News numbers, which come from the various state and federal agencies that have been keeping a running tally of pandemic cases and deaths.
But this month there have been four days when the daily U.S. death toll eclipsed 1,000, including Wednesday, when 1,102 coronavirus casualties were reported. So far there have been 7,322 coronavirus deaths in September, according to the latest NBC News tally.
The first death from COVID-19 in the United States was in California on Feb. 6, but Trump didn’t know that when he spoke to Woodward by phone a day later and admitted he knew that the coronavirus was a killer. That first fatality wasn’t confirmed until April.
In March, 3,768 people in the U.S. died of COVID-19, NBC News figures show. But that month Trump continued to insist that COVID-19 was no more dangerous that the “common flu.”
Then in April there was an explosion of new cases and 58,960 deaths, mostly in Northeastern states like New York and New Jersey where the pandemic first took hold.
Trump continued to downplay the danger while urging the governors of Southern and Sun Belt states like Florida, Arizona and Texas to reopen despite reports that they were just beginning to see surges in COVID-19 cases.
In May, 1,183 of the 42,099 COVID-19 deaths nationwide were in Florida, according the NBC News’ numbers. As of Thursday afternoon, 12,268 coronavirus deaths have been reported in Florida, the majority of them since DeSantis –- a staunch Trump supporter -- signed that executive order.
There were 23,382 deaths in June. And while Trump continued to balk at wearing masks in public, Republican allies alarmed by the skyrocketing infection rates were not just donning them but risking the ire of Trump’s followers by urging them to do the same.
“Wear a damn mask,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, said.
Through it all, Trump continued to insist that the U.S. was making progress in the battle against the pandemic.
"I think we're going to be very good with the coronavirus. I think that at some point that's going to sort of just disappear, I hope," Trump said in a July interview with the Fox Business Network.
That month 26,198 COVID-19 deaths were reported in the U.S., according to NBC’s figures. And in August, another 30,234 people were reported dead as many schools and universities began reopening, creating another potential coronavirus crisis.
Responding to the revelations in the soon-to-be-released Woodward book "Rage," the daughter of a Trump supporter who died of COVID-19 doubled-down Thursday on her criticism of the president's pandemic performance.
“If Donald Trump had told the American people in public what he had told Bob Woodward in private, thousands of lives could have been spared, including my dad,” Kristin Urquiza said during a phone call with reporters organized by Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.
Trump later insisted "I didn't lie" about the severity of the pandemic to the American public. But he dodged a question from a reporter about why he continued to tell the public that the virus was "like a flu" when he knew in February that it was five times more lethal.
In other coronavirus news:
Weekly jobless claims ticked up slightly to 884,000 last week, which is more than the 850,000 that economists had been forecasting. And for some experts, the new numbers were more evidence that the so-called V-shaped recovery that Trump and his team have been promising the American people was a long way off. “The ‘V-shaped’ recovery is a mirage,” Nick Mazing, director of research at data provider Sentieo, told NBC News.“We are seeing a permanent reduction in the size of several sectors in the economy.”
Thousands of bars and restaurants have gone belly-up since the start of the pandemic. And the fates of those that survived are now in the hands of state officials who have to weigh the risks of reopening the businesses most likely to spread the coronavirus against sparking a wave of bar and restaurant bankruptcies. "I'd love for everything to be open, but I think we can all agree sending our kids to school is more fundamental to our society functioning than bars," Malia Jones, an epidemiologist at the University of Wisconsin, told NBC News. "There should be a stimulus package for businesses that are suffering. Some of them are going to be closed for a long time, I think."
- If you're not wearing a mask while you're riding on the New York City subway, you could be slapped with a $50 fine, Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned. Same goes for commuters who ride city buses buses or the Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road commuter trains. “Wearing a mask on public transit is mandatory, the governor’s executive order has the force of state law," Metropolitan Transit Authority president and CEO PatrickFoye said. "Achieving universal mask compliance is our goal.” A recent spotcheck of more than a dozen New York City bus routes by The City, a local news organization, found that on some 90 percent were wearing masks while on one route in the borough of Queens "barely a third of the riders fully covered their noses and mouths."
- Ohio hired its first permanent health director since Dr. Amy Acton quit in June after Republican lawmakers tried to curb her powers. Dr. Joan Duwve, the state director of public health in South Carolina, starts her new job around Oct. 1. Duwve previously worked in Indiana when Vice President Mike Pence was governor. Acton drew widespread praise for working with Gov. Mike DeWine, who is a Republican, to curb the coronavirus crisis early on in the epidemic. But Acton found herself being targeted by GOP legislators and had her home picketed by people demanding an end to the strict stay-at-home measures that helped Ohio keep the pandemic at bay. DeWine was in the process of reopening the state when Acton left. Afterward, the number of COVID-19 cases in the state tripled to around 1,300 a day. "People are letting their guard down," DeWine said and started re-imposing some of the stricter measures that Acton had championed. Ohio has been averaging about 1,000 new cases and around 20 deaths per day. Since the start of the crisis, Ohio has reported 4,324 deaths out of 132.965 infections, according to the latest NBC News tally.