With over 85,800 diagnosed COVID-19 cases by Thursday night, the United States has registered the highest national total in the world, and has also witnessed a rapid surge in confirmed cases, with a daily increase of over 10,000 daily over the past four days.
While addressing a White House coronavirus task force briefing Thursday afternoon, US President Donald Trump said the jump in cases is "a tribute to our testing."
"We're doing tremendous testing," he said.
According to US Vice President Mike Pence, 552,000 coronavirus tests have been completed in the United States by Thursday morning.
In order to push quicker results to stem the tide of the COVID-19 outbreak, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first rapid coronavirus diagnostic test, with a detection time of about 45 minutes.
Another point-of-care test from Abbott Laboratories, a US medical devices and health care company, is awaiting the FDA's approval, which could offer results in less than 15 minutes, Pence said.
While senior officials attributed the increase in cases to expanded testing, experts believed the slowness in instituting social distancing policies and the lag in prevention and control measures have resulted in the situation worsening.
"We were not well prepared for COVID-19, both in terms of testing and instituting social distancing and taking the infection seriously," said Stanley Perlman, professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Iowa, in an interview with Xinhua.
Robert Schooley, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego, said the country is seeing a rapid increase in cases in a number of cities, including New York City, New Orleans and Atlanta.
"Although some of this is because more testing is being done, we were slow to institute social distancing policies in a number of places," he said.
In Washington state where social distancing was begun much earlier than other states, the rise in cases is tailing off, which, hopefully, indicates that similar efforts instituted by a number of state governors will yield similar results, Schooley told Xinhua in an interview.
Experts said government officials should take steps in a more timely manner in an effort to have a maximal effect.
"If we wait until the hospitals begin filling up, social distancing has much less chance of slowing the epidemic than if measures are undertaken earlier," said Schooley.
"Our Mayor in San Diego, Kevin Faulconer, was one of the first mayors in the country to close the schools and issue a stay-at-home order. We seem to be benefiting from that now in that we have about the same number of patients in the hospital as we did a week ago," he said.
While the United States leads the world in confirmed cases, its death toll, standing at 1,290 by Thursday night, comes after countries such as Italy, Spain, China and France.
The reason for this is that the ages of COVID-19 patients in the United States tend to be younger than those of other countries, said Zhang Zuofeng, professor of epidemiology, and also associate dean for research at the School of Public Health at the University of California, Los Angeles.
According to the latest report of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which studied 4,226 COVID-19 cases in the United States from Feb. 12 to March 16, about 69 percent of the diagnosed patients, 55 percent of the hospitalized patients and 47 percent of ICU admitted patients are less than 65 years old.
Experts said the top priorities facing the country include testing, mitigating infections, taking care of those who are sick and preventing a further spread of the virus.
"The US medical system will be under tremendous pressure as COVID-19 cases continue to increase," Zhang said.
"The shortage of protective equipment may toughen the risk for front-line medical staff, while insufficient hospital beds, intensive care rooms and ventilators will make it even more challenging to treat the patients," he told Xinhua