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US surpasses China in official coronavirus deaths

The United States passed a grim milestone on Tuesday as it surpassed China in the official death count from the coronavirus.

The United States now has 3,415 deaths from the virus, surpassing China’s figure of 3,309, according to a tracker from Johns Hopkins University.

It's important to note that there are significant doubts about the accuracy of China’s figures. 

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For example, Bloomberg News reported late last week that social media photos of thousands of urns to hold the ashes of the dead in Wuhan, China, were raising questions about whether the death toll there is much higher.  

Still, the mounting death toll in the United States underscores how severe the pandemic has become in the country.

Trump administration health experts have put forward sobering projections of the total number of U.S. dead in recent days. 

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, said if the U.S. does things “well” to respond to the virus, it could have been 100,000 and 200,000 deaths. If the country did nothing to respond, deaths could climb as high as 2.2 million, she said. 

Monday was the first day where the United States recorded more than 500 deaths in one day. 

The nation now has by far the most known cases of the virus in the world, at more than 160,000. 

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China is where the outbreak began, and it was hit hard earlier this year, but since then has been able to flatten its growth in cases, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker. 

Italy, which has been hit particularly hard by the virus, still has the most known deaths in the world, at more than 11,500, while Spain has more than 8,100. 

The U.S. is still on an upward trajectory, though, with estimates that the outbreak could peak sometime in April. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpPolice say man dangling off Trump Tower Chicago demanding to speak with Trump Fauci says he was 'absolutely not' surprised Trump got coronavirus after Rose Garden event Biden: Trump 'continues to lie to us' about coronavirus MORE cited the warning of as many as two million dead on Sunday when he announced that he was backing off the idea he had floated of reopening the country by Easter, instead saying he would extend guidance for social distancing until the end of April. 

Dr. Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFauci says he was 'absolutely not' surprised Trump got coronavirus after Rose Garden event Whatever happened to Deborah Birx? Infectious disease expert calls White House advisers herd immunity claims 'pseudoscience' MORE, a top National Institutes of Health official, has said the death toll from coronavirus is at least ten times higher than the flu. The flu has about 0.1 percent mortality, and coronavirus is thought to have around 1 percent mortality, he said, though some estimates have put it higher. 

Still, about 80 percent of people who get the virus do not require hospitalization and get better on their own, experts say. But the remaining 20 percent is enough to overwhelm the hospital system in many areas, so states are now scrambling to increase capacity.