The US has reported more than 3 million coronavirus cases as of Wednesday morning, with all but a handful of states struggling to control outbreaks of COVID-19.
The US registered 131,594 deaths related to COVID-19, according to a count maintained by John Hopkins University.
US health officials say the real number of infections is probably 10 times higher than the grim milestone.
Vice President Mike Pence confirmed cases had reached 3 million at a press conference on Wednesday (local time).
However, he defended President Donald Trump’s handling of the crisis.
“While we mourn with those who mourn, because of what the American people have done, because of the extraordinary work of our healthcare workers around the country, we are encouraged that the average fatality rate continues to be low and steady,” Mr Pence said.
Nine U.S. states – New York, California, Texas, Florida, New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, Arizona and Georgia — are now reporting more than 100,000 cases.
With nearly 6,000 patients on Tuesday (local time), California saw a 3.4 per cent increase in patients from the previous day and hospitalisations across the state are now at an all-time high.
And Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that a testing site in Edinburg will offer 5,000 free tests a day.
“This new surge testing site will help us identify and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the Rio Grande Valley and keep Texans safe,” Abbott said.
The stunning milestone hit less than six months after the first confirmed case was reported January 21, in Everett, Washington.
The surge in the country shows no sign of stopping – Tuesday saw a record 60,021 cases.
The White House insists medical supplies are sufficient for the crisis and is continuing to push for re-openings of the economy, most recently placing a focus on getting schools fully functional.
US President Donald Trump has repeatedly said the rise in cases is because of expanding testing.
But health authorities have disputed this, saying the rise cannot be explained purely because of the increased testing.
They say the virus is spreading quickly throughout the community, which is why there is an increased percentage of tests coming back positive.
At a Senate hearing last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified that the country was “going in the wrong direction” and that he “would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around.”
Masks have become a controversial topic with The White House rejecting calls for a nationwide order to wear face coverings, with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows saying on Fox News that it is a matter for governors and mayors to decide.
As of Monday, 35 states plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico had implemented some type of mask requirement.
Dr Fauci said he was “strongly in favour” of Americans wearing masks.
“When you look at what we can do that we know works, it’s the use of masks, physical distance and avoiding crowds,” he said on Tuesday.
“So, if you’re saying it doesn’t matter whether you put it on or take it off, you’re giving a wrong, mixed-signal. The signal should be: Wear a mask, period.”