The United States has surpassed 20 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, another grim milestone as states struggle to distribute vaccines.
The US, which for months has recorded the highest number of infections and deaths linked to the novel coronavirus in the world, registered just more than 20 million infections at about midday on Friday.
The tally is nearly double that of India, which at more than 10.2 million cases has the second most infections globally, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The US has seen a surge in COVID-19 infections over the holiday season, as gatherings and cross-country travel have fuelled the spread of the virus – and officials and healthcare workers have warned that hospitals are being stretched to their limits.
Johns Hopkins University reported this week that the US logged a record-high, single-day death toll on December 30 at 3,927. The country has now recorded more than 346,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
The latest figures come as Donald Trump’s administration missed a year-end goal of administering COVID-19 vaccines to 20 million people.
About 2.8 million people in the US had received a vaccine on the last day of 2020, according to government figures, far short of the objective.
Trump has faced widespread criticism for his handling of the pandemic, which was a main issue in the US presidential elections in November that saw the Republican leader defeated by Democrat Joe Biden.
Biden criticised the vaccine roll-out this week, saying on December 29 the “effort to distribute and administer the vaccine is not progressing as it should”.
The US president-elect has promised his administration will adopt a scientific, fact-based response to the pandemic.
To date, the US has approved two COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use: Doses of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Inc vaccines have been shipped to states across the country, which are responsible for their roll-out.
Healthcare workers and residents of long-term care homes have been among the first to be inoculated.