The United States has now surpassed 60,000 domestic deaths from the novel coronavirus, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. accounts for roughly a quarter of the global deaths related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to the Johns Hopkins data citing reported figures.
More than 1 million Americans have tested positive for the virus since the first U.S. case was confirmed on Jan. 21.
President Trump and members of the White House coronavirus task force at times expressed optimism that the country could keep the death count around 60,000, citing a model used by the White House that has since increased its projected domestic deaths due to COVID-19.
Trump earlier this week said the nation was “probably heading to 60,000, 70,000” deaths. The University of Washington model used by the White House currently projects 72,860 domestic deaths by Aug. 4, with a range of 57,453 to 121,468, after adjusting its projections earlier this week.
Trump during a press conference in the Rose Garden on Monday noted the estimate that up to 2.2 million people would have died without social distancing measures put in place to limit the spread of the virus, crediting his administration with the steps it has taken to save American lives.
“We've lost a lot of people. But if you look at what original projections were — 2.2 million — we're probably heading to 60,000, 70,000,” Trump told reporters. “It's far too many. One person is too many for this.”
The University of Washington model has at various points adjusted its death toll projection. When Trump in late March decided to extend social distancing guidelines to the end of this month, the death toll was expected to fall between 100,000 and 240,000.
The U.S. has seen more coronavirus cases and deaths than any other nation, in part a reflection of the size of the country’s population.
The grim milestone comes as some states begin embarking on plans to relax stay-at-home orders and reopen businesses to restart the economy, which has been devastated by closures caused by the disease nationwide.
The U.S. passed the national peak in daily deaths due to the virus roughly two weeks ago and a number of areas have seen new case numbers begin to flatten.
Trump has expressed grief for the magnitude of lives lost while adopting an increasingly optimistic tone about the country’s path to recovery, saying Tuesday that “our experts believe the worst days of the pandemic are behind us” and that Americans were looking forward to a “safe and rapid reopening.”
The president told reporters Wednesday that it would be "horrible" to lose 65,000 Americans to the virus but said it would have been far worse if his administration didn't take the steps it did.
Still, public health experts say that robust testing and contact tracing programs need to be implemented in order for states to begin safely reopening so that officials can quickly detect cases and prevent future outbreaks. The federal government has faced pressure from states to do more to ramp up testing.
The White House released a blueprint earlier this week laying out steps to increase testing capacity and a top official said the country would “easily” perform 8 million tests during the month of May.