July 7, 2020 / 10:09 PM / a month ago

U.S. coronavirus cases hit 3 million, stoking fears of overwhelmed hospitals

People wait in their vehicles in long lines for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing in Houston, Texas, U.S., July 7, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

(Reuters) - The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States pushed past 3 million on Tuesday, according to a Reuters tally, roughly equal to the population of Nevada, stoking fears that hospitals will be overwhelmed.

The United States has the highest known numbers of both COVID-19 cases and deaths in the world. More than 130,000 Americans have died from the disease, a toll that experts warn will likely surge following recent record spikes in case numbers in many states.

In the first seven days of July, 18 states have reported record increases in new cases of COVID-19, according to a Reuters tally.

In Texas alone, the number of hospitalized patients more than doubled in just two weeks. The Democratic mayor of Austin warned over the weekend that his city’s hospitals could reach capacity in two weeks and run out of intensive care unit (ICU) beds in 10 days. In Arizona, about 90% of ICU beds are full.

The rise in cases also cast a shadow over the nation’s Fourth of July celebrations, with many towns and cities across the country cancelling annual fireworks displays to avoid large crowds gathering.

During an Independence Day speech at the White House on Saturday, U.S. President Donald Trump asserted without evidence that 99% of coronavirus cases in the United States were “totally harmless.”

Trump, a Republican, has refused to wear a mask in public and has been reluctant to encourage Americans to do so, saying it was a personal choice. A July 4 celebration he attended at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota was “mask-optional” and had no social distancing.

(Open here in an external browser for a Reuters interactive)

Reporting by Jane Wardell; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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