More Americans have now died from coronavirus than were killed in the Vietnam War, with cases topping one million. Some 58,220 US servicemen lost their lives in the conflict, which raged from 1955 to 1975.
The US death toll since the first coronavirus death recorded on February 29 reached 58,233 on Tuesday, up more than 2,000 from the prior day, according to a Reuters tally. The actual number of cases is thought to be higher, with state public health officials cautioning that shortages of trained workers and materials have limited testing capacity.
About 30% of the cases have occurred in New York State, the epicentre of the U.S. outbreak, followed by New Jersey, Massachusetts, California and Pennsylvania.
President Donald Trump has vehemently denied he was too slow to shut the country and has dismissed claims he underestimated the virus.
He previously described concern over COVID-19 as a ‘hoax’ and compared the disease to the flu. The number of American fatalities in the Vietnam War, the country’s bloodiest conflict since World War Two, left a lasting impression on the US public.
In the final question of Monday’s White House press briefing, a reporter asked: “If an American president loses more Americans over the course of six weeks than died during the entirety of the Vietnam War, does he deserve to be re-elected?”
Trump refused to rise to the question and instead attempted to put a positive spin on the death toll.
“So, yeah, we’ve lost a lot of people but if you look at what original projections were, 2.2 million, we’re probably heading to 60,000 – 70,000,” he said.
“It’s far too many – one person is too many for this. I think we’ve made a lot of really good decisions,” he added. “The big decision was closing the border, doing the ban on people coming in from China.”
He also emphasised the “unbelievable” job his administration did with ventilators.
“I think we’ve done a great job. And I will say this – one person is too many.”
Globally, coronavirus cases top 3 million since the outbreak began in China late last year.
The United States, with the world’s third-largest population, has five times as many cases as the next hardest-hit countries of Italy, Spain and France.
The United States has about 30 cases per 10,000 people.
Spain ranks first at over 48 cases per 10,000 people, followed by Belgium, Switzerland and Italy.
Unprecedented stay-at-home orders to try to curb the spread of the virus have hammered the economy, with the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits over the last five weeks soaring to 26.5 million.
The US was dragged into the Vietnam War after France suffered a humiliating defeat to Vietnamese rebels. America stepped in to prevent the country from falling to communism after France withdrew.
The war rumbled on for decades and became increasingly unpopular as US casualties mounted, resulting in America eventually pulling out its troops.
A two-acre memorial ground was set up in Washington to honour those who passed away.