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World surpasses 15 million coronavirus cases

The world reached another tragic milestone as it exceeded 15 million COVID-19 cases among more than 200 nations — a quarter of them in the U.S.

The world reached another tragic milestone on Wednesday as it exceeded 15 million COVID-19 confirmed cases among more than 200 nations — a quarter of them in the United States, which also accounted for 23% of more than 618,000 deaths globally.

The astonishing milestone came just 24 days after the world surged past 10 million coronavirus cases and 500,000 deaths, making for 1 million cases and 24,580 deaths added every five days on average.

As of Wednesday, there were more than 15,023,098 infections and 618,061 deaths globally, according to Johns Hopkins University and Google data trackers.

"And that's probably an understimate. So this virus has clearly shown us just how dangerous it can be," Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, told a virtual media briefing.

"We've also seen communities and countries fight back," he said. "And we've seen them achieve success. And we've seen them sustain that success by using very simple measures."

The United States, with 4% of the world's population, had an outsized 3.93 million confirmed cases and 142,459 deaths. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House coronavirus advisor and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he believes the coronavirus will never be eradicated, but eventually can be reduced to "low levels" that are manageable.

“I think with a combination of good public health measures, a degree of global herd immunity and a good vaccine, which I do hope and feel cautiously optimistic that we will get, I think when we put all three of those together, we will get control of this, whether it’s this year or next year. I’m not certain,” he said during an interview with the TB Alliance.

More contact tracing needed

WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told a news conference on Monday that he does not believe the pandemic will not end anytime soon — but he also feels hopeful it can be managed.

"I want to be straight with you: there will no return to the old normal for the foreseeable future. I repeat: there will be no return to the old normal for the foreseeable future," he said. "But there is a roadmap to a situation where we can control the disease and get on with our lives."

Tedros said contact tracing — identifying the people that someone infected with COVID-19 came into contact with — is one of the most important tools for nations to use as part of a "comprehensive package" for reopening economies.

"No country can get control of its epidemic if it doesn’t know where the virus is. As we have said many times, so-called lockdown measures can help to reduce transmission, but they cannot completely stop it," the United Nations' health agency chief said. "Mobile applications can support contact tracing, but nothing replaces boots on the ground — trained workers going door-to-door to find cases and contacts, and break the chains of transmission.