US COVID-19 death toll surpasses 70,000, according to Johns Hopkins data

The number of people who have died from the novel coronavirus in the United States crossed 70,000 on May 5, according to the most recent data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

As of May 5, there had been more than 254,000 deaths from COVID-19 around the world. There were more than  1.1 million confirmed cases in the U.S. and 3.6 million worldwide.

The United States leads the world in coronavirus deaths and cases. The United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and France are countries who report the next highest death tolls. But the U.S. is also the largest contributor to the world’s 1.18 million total recoveries with more than 180,000 as of May 5.

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The death milestone comes at a time when several U.S. states are considering or have lifted parts of their lockdown restrictions in an apparent attempt to restore a sense of normalcy and boost a lagging national economy. Georgia recently fell under criticism that it had reopened parts of its economy too soon, including restaurants and nail salons. 

Other states, however, have been slower to lift lockdowns due to fears the virus spreading further. In mid-April, California Gov. Gavin Newsom outlined “six critical indicators” for when modifications to the state’s stay-at-home order could be enacted. The indicators included the ability to monitor and protect communities through means of increased testing and contact tracing; ensuring that health organizations can handle surges; and that businesses and schools can support physical distancing.

In New York, where the stay-at-home order had already been extended to May 15, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week that schools would remain closed throughout the remainder of the year due to the ongoing spread of the virus. “We must protect our children," Cuomo said. "Every parent and citizen feels that."

Meanwhile, health officials predicted that a second surge of the coronavirus will likely hit in the fall, with Dr. Anthony Fauci calling the wave “inevitable” in a late-April interview. How damaging that second wave will be, Fauci noted, depends on how well the U.S. is prepared in regards to items like robust testing and contact tracing.

The milestone in U.S. deaths also coincides with raised concerns over lack of uniform policies and mandates over COVID-19 testing.

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Under a new policy from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), companies with tests kits for sale will be required to submit information on their test's accuracy within 10 days. The blood tests are designed to show who has had a coronavirus infection in the past and subsequently may have some immunity.

According to data the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the vast majority of individuals who have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. are above the age of 55. But until a vaccine is developed, anyone is susceptible to contracting the virus.