Worldwide coronavirus cases surpassed 17 million late Wednesday, just hours before the six-month anniversary of the World Health Organization’s declaration of a global health emergency.
According to public health data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, there were 17,031,281 confirmed infections as of 11 p.m. PT, while the death toll around the world has surpassed 667,000 people.
It took four days to climb from 16 million cases to 17 million, and the 10-million mark was reached roughly a month ago. By contrast, it took just over two months for cases to grow from 3 million to 10 million.
According to Johns Hopkins, Wednesday marked a new record in the number of global infections reported in a single day, at over 289,100.
Several countries reported their highest ever daily totals Wednesday, including Brazil, India, Japan, Australia, Uzbekistan, and Morocco. Others, including Colombia and Venezuela, saw their records shatter within the past few days before dropping only slightly.
The world has seen cases confirmed at a rate of over 200,000 per day since mid-July, while the overall pandemic curve has continued to rise at a steady clip since early June.
The United States remains the most infected country on the planet, with over 4.4 million cases and over 150,000 deaths.
Debates over mandatory masks and other preventative measures to slow the spread of the virus have continued to play out across the country, as multiple states begin to see record surges in deaths as well as cases.
Many states along with the federal government have refused to order masks to be worn in public. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi moved Wednesday to make them mandatory in the lower congressional chamber after Rep. Louis Gohmert — who has often refused to wear a mask — tested positive.
Data set to be released Thursday is expected to show that the U.S. economy contracted at its steepest pace since the Great Depression in the second quarter as the pandemic destroyed consumer and business spending, potentially wiping out more than five years of growth.
Brazil, which has seen 2.5 million cases and over 90,000 deaths so far, and India, with 1.5 million cases and nearly 35,000 deaths, round out the top three most impacted nations, followed by Russia and South Africa.
Brazil, whose leader Jair Bolsonaro has refused to take the virus seriously despite testing positive himself, reopened international air travel to foreign tourists on Wednesday, which had been banned since March.
Canada, meanwhile, has joined several other countries in seeing an uptick in cases after largely flattening their curves just weeks ago. Health officials have blamed the recent surges on loosened economic restrictions and growing gatherings of young people, who are now leading other demographics in new infections.
Experts say the true number of cases around the world could be up to 10 times higher than what official data shows, due to widespread testing shortages during the early stages of the pandemic.
—With files from Reuters
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