US records 2,600 new cases every hour as total infections top 4m

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It has highest rate globally, with over 2,600 new cases every hour on average

WASHINGTON US coronavirus cases crossed four million yesterday, with more than 2,600 new cases every hour on average, the highest rate in the world, according to a Reuters tally.

Infections in the US have rapidly accelerated since the first case was detected on Jan 21.

It took the country 98 days to reach one million cases.

It took another 43 days to reach two million and then 27 days to reach three million.

It has taken only 16 days to reach four million at a rate of 43 new cases a minute.

The federal government, state governors and city leaders have often clashed over the best way to tackle the pandemic, leading to a confusing patchwork of rules on issues such as mask wearing in public and when businesses can open.

California has overtaken New York, the original epicentre of the US outbreak, as the worst-hit state for cases.

Cases in the most populous US state rose by 12,112 on Wednesday to a total of more than 421,000, the biggest single-day increase since the pandemic started. California deaths also set a one-day record, rising by 159.

New York has recorded by far the most deaths of any US state at more than 32,000, with California in fourth place with over 8,000 deaths.

New York has more than 413,500 cases and has been adding on average 700 new ones a day this month.

In California there is an average of 8,300 new cases a day.

The rapid increase of cases has made it difficult to trace the pathogen's path through the community through contact tracing.

It is a process of interviewing people who test positive for the virus to find out how they were exposed, and whom they in turn might have exposed, California Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr Mark Ghaly said.

"No one anticipated building a program to contact trace the number of cases we're seeing here," he said, referring to Los Angeles and other counties struggling to trace cases of the disease.

Texas, meanwhile, set one-day records for increases in deaths and hospitalisations, forcing one county to store bodies in refrigerated trucks and prompting a top health official there to call for new stay-at-home orders.

Texas, which reported 197 deaths and 10,893 hospitalisations, has been one of the states hardest hit.

Hidalgo County, at the southern tip of the state on the US border with Mexico, has seen cases rise 60 per cent in the last week, according to a Reuters tally, with deaths doubling to more than 360.

"We've got to lasso this virus, this stallion, bring the numbers back down and get control of this thing," Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez said.

"Because our hospitals - they're war zones, they are really struggling right now."