LOS ANGELES - More than 750,000 people have died from the novel coronavirus across the world, a stark reminder of the virus’s ongoing spread and severity.
Data compiled Aug. 13 by the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center shows there are more than 20 million confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide, and over 5.2 million cases in the United States alone.
In addition to having more confirmed cases than any other country in the world, the U.S. also holds the unfortunate title of country with the most confirmed COVID-19 deaths with over 166,000, according to Johns Hopkins data.
The COVID-19 situation in the United States is so severe that American travelers are barred from visiting many countries in the European Union, despite the U.S. State Department lifting its Global Level 4 Health Advisory on Aug. 6.
Following the U.S. in COVID-19 death counts is Brazil (104,000+), Mexico (54,000+), India (47,000+) and the United Kingdom (46,000+). Brazil surpassed the 100,000 death threshold on Aug. 8.
The nation of 210 million people has been reporting an average of more than 1,000 daily deaths from the pandemic since late May and reported 905 for the latest 24-hour period, according to an Aug. 8 report from the Associated Press.
President Jair Bolsonaro — who himself reported being infected — has been a consistent skeptic about the impact of the disease and an advocate of lifting restrictions on the economy that had been imposed by state governors trying to combat it. He has frequently mingled in crowds, sometimes without a mask.
In Europe, multiple nations are experiencing surges in COVID-19 infections. Not two months after battling back the coronavirus, Spain’s hospitals have started seeing patients who are struggling to breathe returning to their wards.
The deployment of a military emergency brigade to set up a field hospital in the northeastern city of Zaragoza this week is a grim reminder that Spain is far from claiming victory over the virus that overwhelmed the European country in March and April.
The Spanish government’s top virus expert, Fernando Simón, said Thursday that the 3,500 hospital beds occupied nationally by coronavirus patients represented just 3% of the total capacity.
On Aug. 8, the Associated Press reported that Italy added another 347 coronavirus infections to its official tally, a day after it surpassed the 500-case barrier for the first time since late May.
Italy had 552 confirmed cases on Friday. With Saturday’s update from the health ministry, Italy’s daily caseload returns to the 200-300 range of new infections it has maintained for the past several weeks.
Government officials have urged Italians to keep their guard up, given Spain, France and Germany have seen daily infections top the 1,000-mark recently after the easing of virus lockdown measures.
Italian officials have blamed the new clusters largely on newly arrived migrants and Italians returning home from vacation outside their home regions. Another 13 people died in the last day, making Italy’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll 35,203 — sixth highest in the world.
New Zealand’s first known community outbreak in more than three months grew to 17 cases on Thursday and is expected to increase. Health officials are still working to trace where the virus came from, and a lockdown imposed in Auckland could be extended well beyond an initial three days.
Before the cluster was detected this week, no case of local transmission had been reported in New Zealand in 102 days. All of its other cases were travelers quarantined after arriving from abroad.
As the coronavirus pandemic has progressed, there have been heightened questions and discussion over if and when a COVID-19 vaccine will be available to the public.
According to a survey from InCrowd, a medical research company, a majority of infectious disease experts believed it would likely take as long as a year before a coronavirus vaccine is widely available to the public after the vaccine’s approval.
Fauci previously said that he hoped a vaccine would be available by early 2021, although he did not provide a specific time frame.
During an Aug. 7 webinar hosted by Brown University, Fauci said that while he hopes a vaccine could be be 75% effective, one that is 50% to 60% effective would also be acceptable.
“We don’t know yet what the efficacy might be. We don’t know if it will be 50% or 60%. I’d like it to be 75% or more,” Fauci said. “What I’m shooting for is somewhere between really good control and elimination.”
Even if a vaccine was widely available, its efficacy could be hampered by Americans refusing to take it.
An Aug. 7 poll from Gallup showed as many as one in three Americans said they would not get a vaccine for COVID-19, even if the vaccine was FDA-approved and there was no cost out-of-pocket.
There’s still no guarantee that an experimental vaccine, with one being developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., will really protect.
It normally takes years to create a new vaccine from scratch, but scientists are setting speed records this time around, spurred by knowledge that vaccination is the world’s best hope against the pandemic. The coronavirus wasn’t even known to exist before late December, and vaccine makers sprang into action Jan. 10 when China shared the virus’ genetic sequence.
Governments around the world are trying to stockpile millions of doses of those leading candidates so if and when regulators approve one or more vaccines, immunizations can begin immediately. But the first available doses will be rationed, presumably reserved for people at highest risk from the virus.
Russia on Tuesday became the first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine, a move that was met with international skepticism and unease because the shots have only been studied in dozens of people.
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President Vladimir Putin announced the Health Ministry’s approval and said one of his two adult daughters already was inoculated. He said the vaccine underwent the necessary tests and was shown to provide lasting immunity to the coronavirus, although Russian authorities have offered no proof to back up claims of safety or effectiveness.
However, scientists in Russia and other countries sounded an alarm, saying that rushing to offer the vaccine before final-stage testing could backfire. What’s called a Phase 3 trial — which involves tens of thousands of people and can take months — is the only way to prove if an experimental vaccine is safe and really works.
The World Health Organization has urged that all vaccine candidates go through full stages of testing before being rolled out, and said Tuesday it is in touch with the Russian scientists and “looks forward to reviewing” Russia’s study data. Experts have warned that vaccines that are not properly tested can cause harm in many ways — from harming health to creating a false sense of security or undermining trust in vaccinations.
Austin Williams and the Associated Press contributed to this story.