By Lisa Shumaker
July 29 (Reuters) - U.S. deaths from the novel coronavirus surpassed 150,000 on Wednesday, a number higher than in any other country and nearly a quarter of the world’s total, according to a Reuters tally.
Of the 20 countries with the biggest outbreaks, the United States ranks sixth in deaths per capita, at 4.5 fatalities per 10,000 people.
Only the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Peru and Chile have a higher per capita rate, the tally shows, with U.S. deaths making up nearly 23% of the global total of 660,997.
The increase of 10,000 deaths in 11 days is the fastest in the United States since early June. (Graphic: tmsnrt.rs/2P87LUu)
Florida reported a record increase in new COVID-19 deaths for a second successive day on Wednesday, with 217 fatalities in the last 24 hours, according to the state health department.
The pace of infections has accelerated since the United States passed 100,000 dead on May 27.
The U.S. epicenter has also moved, to the South and West from the area around New York, which still has by far the highest death toll at more than 32,000.
On Tuesday, Arkansas, California, Florida, Montana, Oregon and Texas each reported record spikes in fatalities.
The rising numbers have crushed early hopes the country was past the worst of an economic crisis that has decimated businesses and put millions of Americans out of work.
Health experts have been saying for months that the U.S. outbreak could be brought under control if guidelines to maintain social distancing and wear masks in public were followed everywhere.
Such measures became a hot partisan issue after President Donald Trump, who initially played down the seriousness of the health crisis after the first U.S. case in January, refused to wear a mask or mandate mask-wearing nationally.
Trump has since come around to supporting masks.
With the scheduled reopening of schools days away in some states, the Trump administration is pushing for students to return to classrooms, while some teachers and local officials have called for learning to remain online.
Data has shown the disease is hitting low-income and minority populations disproportionately in some areas.
California health officials said Latinos, who make up just over a third of the most populous U.S. state, account for 56% of COVID-19 infections and 46% of deaths.
The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), whose forecasts are closely watched by policymakers including the White House, first predicted in March that the pandemic could kill more than 81,000 by July after easing in June.
In its latest statement on July 14, the IHME said its model now projects the U.S. death toll at more than 224,000 by Nov. 1.
It also said that number was not set in stone.
“Use of masks is up, but not as high as it should be. If 95% of Americans wore masks each time they left their homes, infection rates would drop, hospitalizations would drop, and forecast deaths would drop,” the IHME said.
Reporting by Lisa Shumaker; Writing by Sonya Hepinstall; Editing by Howard Goller