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Coronavirus death toll passes 150,000

More than 150,000 people in the United States have died from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University, while tens of thousands more are struggling in hospitals as the pandemic spreads virtually unchecked in almost every state in the nation.

Six months after the virus was first reported on American soil, it is poised to be the third-leading cause of death this year, behind only heart disease and cancer. It has already killed more people in the United States than the number of Union soldiers who died in the Civil War.

There are few signs the spread is slowing down. The number of new cases confirmed on a daily basis has topped 50,000 on all but two days of the month, and more than 60,000 new cases have been confirmed on seven of the last 10 days.

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The United States is conducting more than 750,000 tests every day, and many of the new cases being identified are among people who show no or few symptoms.

But the virus continues to infect many who suffer far worse outcomes. More than 57,000 people are hospitalized, according to figures released by state health departments and collected by the COVID Tracking Project, an independent group of researchers. More than 1,000 people have died on seven of the past eight days.

Two-thirds of the states have seen case counts increase over the last week. Florida identified more than 73,000 new cases over the past seven days, while California reported 67,000 new cases and Texas confirmed more than 57,000.

Georgia, Arizona, Louisiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama, South Carolina and Illinois all reported more than 10,000 cases in the last week. Only one state — Arizona — has seen its case counts decline for two consecutive weeks, albeit after reaching a zenith in June and early July that put it on par with the worst hot spots across the world.

Even some of the states that have been spared the worst of the crisis are beginning to see case counts rise. Alaska reported 234 new cases Sunday, after managing a long streak of only a small handful of cases each day. Hawaii reported 301 cases over the last week, twice as many as its previous record. States like Mississippi and Missouri, which saw relatively low case counts, are now averaging more than 1,000 new cases each day.

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The number of dead is likely to continue to rise as case counts increase, a lagging indicator as the COVID-19 disease runs its course over a long stretch of time. That rise is beginning to show in states such as Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas — all states where at least three-quarters of the beds in intensive care units are occupied.

What had once been a predominately federal responsibility — creating, maintaining and coordinating a national strategy to combat a public health threat — has largely been left to the states.

Thirty-two states now require residents to wear masks in public places, and dozens of city and local governments also require masks in the remaining states that do not have statewide mandates.

There are few signs that President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit MORE has plans to issue a federal mask mandate. At his press briefing Tuesday, hours before the U.S. officially crossed the 150,000-death mark, Trump spent time bemoaning his low approval ratings, promoting a drug that is not effective against the virus and touting a doctor who has warned of harm caused by having sex with demons and witches in dreams.

Congress, too, has dragged its feet in responding to a virus that has killed so many and caused so much damage, both physical and economic. Senate Republicans unveiled their latest stimulus proposal Monday, weeks after House Democrats passed their own version; the two sides remain far apart, and on Tuesday Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHarris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight MORE (R-Ky.) effectively handed authority to negotiate the Republican position to Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Initial jobless claims rise for 2nd week | Dow dips below 30K | Mnuchin draws fire for COVID-19 relief move | Manhattan DA appeals dismissal of Manafort charges Mnuchin to put 5B in COVID-19 relief funds beyond successor's reach The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience MORE and Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump holds his last turkey pardon ceremony Overnight Defense: Pentagon set for tighter virus restrictions as top officials tests positive | Military sees 11th COVID-19 death | House Democrats back Senate language on Confederate base names Trump administration revives talk of action on birthright citizenship MORE, the White House chief of staff.

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As the crisis evolves, some states that had begun to reopen and some states that had resisted strict lockdowns are beginning to curtail activities once again.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) said Monday he would order bars closed for two weeks. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) ordered bars to close at 11 p.m., and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) placed new restrictions on restaurants and bars in the Hampton Roads area, to stop an outbreak centered around Virginia Beach.

California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomMayor of Denver apologizes for holiday travel after advising residents to stay put California, Texas shatter single-day nationwide record for new coronavirus cases Denver mayor flies to Mississippi for Thanksgiving after advising against travel MORE (D), confronting one of the fastest-growing outbreaks in the nation, said his state would surge $52 million to eight particularly hard-hit counties in the Central Valley, to rapidly improve testing, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine efforts.