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The U.S. Now Leads the World in Confirmed Coronavirus Cases

Scientists warned that the United States someday would become the country hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. That moment arrived on Thursday.

In the United States, at least 81,321 people are known to have been infected with the coronavirus, including more than 1,000 deaths — more cases than China, Italy or any other country has seen, according to data gathered by The New York Times.

The Times is engaged in a comprehensive effort to track the details of every confirmed case in the United States, collecting information from federal, state and local officials.

With 330 million residents, the United States is the world’s third most populous nation, meaning it provides a vast pool of people who can potentially get Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.

And it is a sprawling, cacophonous democracy, where states set their own policies and President Trump has sent mixed messages about the scale of the danger and how to fight it, ensuring there was no coherent, unified response to a grave public health threat.

A series of missteps and lost opportunities dogged the nation’s response.

Among them: a failure to take the pandemic seriously even as it engulfed China, a deeply flawed effort to provide broad testing for the virus that left the country blind to the extent of the crisis, and a dire shortage of masks and protective gear to protect doctors and nurses on the front lines, as well as ventilators to keep the critically ill alive.

“This could have been stopped by implementing testing and surveillance much earlier — for example, when the first imported cases were identified,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University in New York.

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