U.S. reaches grim milestone: 3 million COVID-19 cases

While President Donald Trump has touted a decreased death rate, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned of falling into a "false complacency."
Image: ***BESTPIX*** Florida Coronavirus Cases Continues To Spike Upward
Cars are seen as the drivers wait to be tested for COVID-19 at the COVID test site located in the Hard Rock Stadium parking lot on July 6, 2020 in Miami Gardens, Fla.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

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By Nigel Chiwaya and Corky Siemaszko

The U.S. has reached a milestone that seemed unthinkable just a few months ago — the 3 millionth case of coronavirus.

There were 3,000,012 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of 11 p.m.Tuesday and around 10 percent of those (317,654) were reported since July 1, figures compiled by NBC News showed.

Meanwhile, the death toll was 131,661 and rising as the pandemic maintained a tragic trajectory.

President Donald Trump, who just a week ago was saying the coronavirus would “just disappear,” insisted in a tweet that COVID-19 deaths rates were down 39 percent and that the U.S. had the lowest death rate “in the world.”

It was not clear how Trump reached the conclusion that “deaths are down 39%.” But the U.S. death rate is 4.44 percent, which is far from being the “lowest” in the world.

In fact, the U.S. death rate is the 46th highest out of the nearly 200 countries surveyed by NBC News.

Also, Americans account for more than one out five of the more than 541,000 coronavirus deaths reported around the world.

In other related developments:

  • Trump vowed to "put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools” and praised Florida's Gov. Ron DeSantis for insisting on reopening public schools in the fall even though the Sunshine State in the midst of a coronavirus spike.
  • The Trump Administration gave formal notice the U.S. was withdrawing from the World Health Organization. The president has accused the WHO of "severely mismanaging and covering up" the coronavirus crisis, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China. Critics, however, say Trump is blaming WHO for his administration's slow response to the crisis and note that he declared a national emergency on March 13.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who like Trump has downplayed the dangers of the virus, revealed Tuesday that he has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Mississippi Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann announced he tested positive two days after Speaker Philip Gunn said he was infected. "Both men were not wearing a mask at a bill signing at the governor's mansion last week," the Clarion Ledger reported. A number of other Mississippi lawmakers were being tested as well. Gov. Tate Reeves said he tested negative.

Not long after Trump tweeted about the death rate, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appeared to contradict his boss during a Facebook Live press conference with Alabama Sen Doug Jones, who is a Democrat.

"It's a false narrative to take comfort in a lower rate of death," Fauci said. "There's so many other things that are very dangerous and bad about this virus. Don't get yourself into false complacency."

Fauci said the current rise in cases is tied directly to some states reopening too soon and that young people who are not wearing masks or social distancing are "propagating this pandemic."

"So you are part of the problem, because you could, even though you feel fine, you could inadvertently and innocently infect someone else who then inadvertently and innocently affects someone who's really vulnerable," Fauci said.

Fauci also said he was "strongly" in favor of mandating masks, but said it should be done at a local level.

"I don't like to be, you know, authoritarian from the federal government but at the local level, if governors and others essentially mandate the use of masks when you have an outbreak I think that would be very important," he said.

Republican leaders who had been reluctant to impose mask-wearing mandates have begun urging people to wear them, including New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, who said he will be wearing one Saturday when Trump arrives for a rally.

Sununu, however, is not requiring that attendees don masks. And it remains to be seen whether Trump will wearing a mask. He has rarely been seen in public wearing a mask.

States like Florida, Texas, Arizona and California have seen the biggest jump in cases of late. But while the governors of California and Texas have imposed mask mandates, the governors of Arizona and Florida have not gone that far.

Meanwhile, Gov. Mike DeWine, whose state had been a success story until the case numbers began climbing again, imposed a mask-wearing requirement in the seven counties that have seen the biggest jump. That includes the counties with the state's biggest cities, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati.

Arizona reported 3,653 new cases and 117 additional deaths Tuesday. Fifty-two of those deaths, however, were not recent.

Florida, which hit record numbers of cases twice since July 1, has had 206,447 cases and 3,879 deaths.

California has reported 273,625 cases and 6,457 deaths, while Texas has had 209,541 cases and 2,708 deaths.

With the pandemic showing no signs of slowing down, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, announced that he would not be attending the upcoming GOP convention in Jacksonville, Florida. It will be the first time in 40 years that Grassley is a no-show at a Republican presidential convention.

Iowa has reported 31,758 cases and 3,879 deaths, according to NBC News figures.

Other Republican senators who are skipping the convention are Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, all for reasons unrelated to the pandemic.

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, also a Republican, told reporters in June he might not attend the GOP convention because of the pandemic.