It was just a matter of time, and the unwanted milestone came Thursday evening: The US now has more confirmed coronavirus cases than any other nation, according to Johns Hopkins University. The US count of 82,404 surpassed that of China (81,782) and Italy (80,589). After that comes a drop-off, with Spain at about 57,000 and Germany at 43,000. Italy still has the most deaths (more than 8,000), while the US total climbed above 1,000 on Wednesday. Other developments:
- New guidelines: President Trump said Thursday that federal officials are developing guidelines to rate counties around the US as low, medium or high risk, reports NPR, which has the full text of Trump's letter to governors about it. The idea is to help state and local officials with decisions on decisions about "maintaining, increasing or relaxing social distancing and other mitigation measures," says the letter. Increased testing may play a key role in refining those guidelines.
- Presidential visit: Trump announced Thursday that he will visit Norfolk, Virginia, on Saturday to watch the departure of a 1,000-bed Navy hospital ship being deployed to New York City to help relieve pressure on hospitals, reports the Hill. "I'm going to go out and kiss it goodbye," said Trump.
- China call: Trump also said he would speak with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Thursday night. It would be their first talk since February, when Trump praised China's response to the outbreak, notes the New York Times. He has since begun referring to COVID-19 as the "Chinese virus," but he said Thursday that "I don’t have to say it if they feel so strongly about it."
- No alarm yet: At Thursday's White House task force briefing, response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx sought to play down fears of a dire shortage of hospital beds and ventilators in the coming weeks. "To say that to the American people, to make the implication when they need a hospital bed, it won’t be there, or when they need that ventilator, it won’t be there, we don’t have evidence of that right now." (New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo might disagree.)