The US has surpassed 5 million confirmed cases of coronavirus, by far the highest in the world.
The bleak milestone – recorded the Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the virus – confirms the US as the worst hit country, followed by Brazil and India, which have more than 3 million and 2.1 million infections respectively.
But health officials in the US believe that for every reported case of COVID-19, there are around 10 times as many people infected, given the limits on testing and the large number of mild cases that have gone unreported or unrecognised.
New cases in the country stand at about 54,000 a day, and while that is down from a peak of more than 70,000 in the second half of July, they are rising in nearly 20 states, and deaths are climbing in most.
Many Americans have resisted wearing face masks and social distancing, and the US failure to contain the spread of coronavirus has been met with astonishment and alarm in Europe.
Italian health minister Roberto Speranza has criticised the US and officially condemned Washington’s decision to withhold funding from the World Health Organisation, and expressed amazement at President Donald Trump’s response to the pandemic.
After Mr Trump finally wore a mask last month, Mr Speranza said: “I’m not surprised by Trump’s behaviour now; I’m profoundly surprised by his behaviour before.”
Much of the criticism in Europe stems from the fact that the US had the benefit of time, European experience and medical know-how to treat the virus that the continent itself did not have when the first COVID-19 patients started filling intensive care units.
With three months before a presidential election, Mr Trump is also grappling with the economic crisis stemming from the pandemic.
More than 40 million Americans lost their jobs at the peak of the pandemic, with the US unemployment rate standing at 10.2% in July – down from 14.7% in April.
The president has bypassed Congress to give thousands of Americans a tax holiday and extra unemployment benefit after talks with the Democrats collapsed.
He signed executive orders to extend economic relief for those hit hardest by the virus at a news conference at his private New Jersey country club on Saturday.
More than 162,000 people have died from the virus in the US, and European nations have barred American tourists, and visitors from other countries with growing cases, from freely travelling to the bloc.
France and Germany are now imposing tests on arrival for travellers from “at risk” countries, including the US.