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US surpasses 10 million COVID-19 infections

US surpasses 10 million COVID-19 infections
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The United States became the first country to surpass 10 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Monday, according to a count from The Washington Post, a grim milestone that comes as experts warn of a surge this fall and winter. 

The U.S. continues to have more cases than any other country, averaging more than 111,000 new cases per day. Nearly 133,000 new cases were reported on Friday, the highest number reported in a single day.

Experts had long warned that new cases would surge in the fall and winter as the cold weather forces people to spend more time indoors, where the virus spreads more easily. 

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Cases started climbing in the U.S. in September, before increasing rapidly in recent weeks. 

"We all realize our nation is in a critical phase of the pandemic, with significant community spread," Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir told reporters on a call Monday. 

Hospitalizations are also rising, with nearly 57,000 people hospitalized as of Sunday, according to The COVID Tracking Project. 

Deaths, which typically lag behind increases in cases and hospitalizations, are also starting to tick up, with an average of 934 fatalities reported in the past seven days, according to the project. 

"Nonetheless, because of the numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths will continue to rise until we rigorously adhere to public health prevention measures," including wearing masks and practicing social distancing, Giroir said.

New cases are likely to continue increasing throughout the next few months, especially as people gather for the fall and winter holidays. The virus is widespread throughout the country but especially in the midwest and mountain states, where states like North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska lead the country in cases per capita.

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Globally, infections have surpassed 50 million. India and Brazil remain the two countries with the second and third most COVID-19 infections, respectively, at 8.5 million and 5.6 million, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. Both countries are reporting significantly fewer numbers of new cases than the U.S. per day, though direct comparisons are difficult due to the variation in testing strategies. 

The Trump administration's handling of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. has been heavily criticized by the president's political opponents amid the U.S.'s rising case numbers and the more than 230,000 deaths reported across the country as a result of the pandemic.

 Updated at 1:22 pm.