Global cases of COVID-19 have shot past 500, 000 while the US now has more confirmed cases of coronavirus than any other country, with more than 85,500 positive tests.
According to the latest figures collated by Johns Hopkins University, the US has overtaken China (81,782 cases) and Italy (80,589).
But with almost 1,300 Covid-19-related fatalities, the US death toll lags behind China (3,291) and Italy (8,215).
The grim milestone came as President Donald Trump predicted the nation would get back to work “pretty quickly”.
How did the White House react?
Asked about the latest figures at a White House briefing on Thursday afternoon, President Trump said it was “a tribute to the amount of testing that we’re doing”.
Vice-President Mike Pence said coronavirus tests were now available in all 50 states and more than 552,000 tests had been conducted nationwide.
Mr Trump also cast doubt on the figures coming out of Beijing, telling reporters: “You don’t know what the numbers are in China.”
Does the president still hope to ease restrictions?
Mr Trump has set a much-criticised goal of Easter Sunday, 12 April, for reopening the country. That plan seemed to gather impetus on Thursday as it emerged an unprecedented 3.3 million Americans have been laid off because of the virus.
At Thursday’s briefing, he said: “They [the American people] have to go back to work, our country has to go back, our country is based on that and I think it’s going to happen pretty quickly.
“We may take sections of our country, we may take large sections of our country that aren’t so seriously affected and we may do it that way.”
He added: “A lot of people misinterpret when I say go back – they’re going to be practising as much as you can social distancing, and washing your hands and not shaking hands and all of the things we talked about.”
He promised more details next week.
What could he be planning?
In a letter to state governors on Thursday, Mr Trump said his team plans to release federal social distancing guidelines that may advise some regions to loosen restrictions.
Mr Trump wrote of a “long battle ahead” and said “robust” testing protocols might allow some counties to lift their safeguards against the coronavirus.
He said the “new guidelines” would create low, medium and high-risk zones that would allow the government to advise on “maintaining, increasing, or relaxing social distancing and other mitigation measures they have put in place”.