US deaths top 52,000, over a quarter of global toll

Nearly 52,000 Americans have died of the virus so far — a number that increases daily as a result of new fatalities and states reviewing previous deaths that had not been tied to the disease.

The virus has killed at least 197,000 people worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In the US, limited testing was partly why California officials initially did not count two February deaths as coronavirus-related. This week, they confirmed the two victims — a 57-year-old woman who died February 6 and a 69-year-old man who died February 17– are so far the earliest known to have died of Covid-19 in the US.

New efforts by some states to trace more cases will give officials a better idea of the magnitude of the pandemic in the country. That, in addition to testing — which experts say is still not where it needs to be.

The US has conducted about 5.1 million tests, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading epidemiologist, said this week the nation needs to ramp up testing. Two new reports from public health experts and economists argue that to safely reopen states the country needs to conduct millions of tests per week.

And as health officials race to get the virus under control, state leaders are setting the date they’ll begin reopening their economies — decisions that President Donald Trump has said are entirely up to governors.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Friday opened some businesses, including barber shops and hair salons, tattoo parlors, gyms and bowling alleys. The state has recorded more than 22,491 infections and at least 899 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

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