IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

U.S. tops 6 million coronavirus cases as nation continues to struggle with pandemic

The country has recorded more than 183,000 deaths due to the virus since the outbreak began early this year.
Get more newsLiveon

The U.S. has surpassed 6 million coronavirus cases as the country struggles to reopen schools and rebuild its economy as the pandemic rages with no end in sight.

The number of coronavirus cases topped 6 million Sunday, according to NBC News data collected from health departments nationwide. The country has recorded more than 183,000 deaths due to the virus since the outbreak gained global attention in February.

Although case numbers have continued to rise in waves, many states have chosen to reopen their economies and schools. Universities and colleges that board students have particularly struggled to keep cases under control as young adults move back to campuses and nearby residences to begin in-person courses.

The University of Alabama reported that more than 550 people — the majority of them students — have tested positive for the coronavirus since classes began just over a week ago. The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the University of Notre Dame converted to virtual learning after influxes of new cases within a few weeks of the return of students.

Educators told NBC News' Social Newsgathering team last month that they had serious anxieties about returning to in-person learning. Laura Crary, an art history professor at a liberal arts college in South Carolina, said she is a single parent who also cares for her parents.

"All it's going to take is one really bad case — student, faculty or staff — and the whole house of cards is going to come crashing down," Crary said. "And I don't want that case to be me."

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

The response to the pandemic has also been heavily politicized as the virus becomes a dominant issue in the run-up to the presidential election. Both parties mentioned the pandemic during their conventions this month, although the candidates offered dueling perspectives on the matter.

President Donald Trump boasted of the country's response in his speech during the Republican National Convention last week, claiming that scientists would have a vaccine by the end of the year. He offered no evidence to support the statement.

Four vaccine candidates are in clinical trials in the United States, with one from Moderna being furthest along, but it's impossible to know whether they will prove effective, according to NBC News' fact check.

Democratic nominee Joe Biden called the U.S. response "the worst performance of any nation on Earth" at the Democratic National Convention.

"The president keeps telling us the virus is going to disappear," Biden said. "He keeps waiting for a miracle. Well, I have news for him: No miracle is coming."

Since the beginning of the pandemic, some have said mixed messages from the federal government and its agencies on safety guidance have hurt Americans.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance saying healthy people who have been exposed to COVID-19 "do not necessarily need a test" as long as they don't have symptoms. Previously, guidance suggested testing for all close contacts of infected people because asymptomatic carriers could still spread the virus.

A spokesperson for National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, led Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Fauci had some concerns about the new guidance.

Dr. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, told reporters that the decision to change the testing guidance was made Aug. 20, the day Fauci had surgery to remove a noncancerous polyp on his vocal cords.

"Now, reading them carefully, he has some concern that the revised guidelines could be interpreted as lessening the importance of asymptomatic spread of virus in the community," the spokesperson said.

The CDC's director, Dr. Robert Redfield, walked back the guidance Thursday, saying "all close contacts of confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients" may consider testing.