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MAP: Watch how COVID-19 traveled the world

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has grown rapidly after cases were first reported at the end of last year–with the U.S. now leading the world in the highest number of infections, surpassing Italy, China and Spain.

Using WHO data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the PBS NewsHour tracked the progression of the respiratory illness in an animated map, zooming out from a single Chinese province to fill in countries around the world as cases mount.

Novel coronavirus is spread through the transfer of respiratory droplets that are formed when people infected with the disease cough, sneeze or talk, according to the CDC. It is also believed to live on surfaces, which is why public health officials are strongly urging against touching public surfaces and then touching your face without washing your hands first.

READ MORE: Your guide to understanding COVID-19

The WHO data shows that COVID-19 stayed largely within mainland China until mid-February, at which point the number of confirmed cases outside of the region started growing steadily. Since Feb. 14, the number of COVID-19 cases outside of mainland China has grown exponentially, from around 600 confirmed cases to more than 448,000 today.

While the spread of the virus has now begun to taper off in China and South Korea, COVID-19 continues to overwhelm the health systems of the U.S. and Italy. In Italy alone nearly 10,000 people have died of the virus, and in the U.S. more than 94,000 people have been infected, resulting in more than 1,400 deaths.

READ MORE: What is a ventilator and how does it help COVID-19 patients?

Multiple U.S. governors have issued shelter-in-place orders in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, but states such as New York, Washington and Louisiana — which now lead the U.S. death toll — have struggled to allocate enough resources to care for those who are seeking help for their severe symptoms. Many hospitals lack adequate supplies of personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves and gowns, spurring concern that healthcare providers will contract COVID-19 themselves.

State leaders have repeatedly sounded the alarm to the Trump administration about their dwindling supplies, including ventilators, which are vital in helping patients with the most severe cases of the coronavirus to breathe. Most recently, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he estimated his state would need 30,000-40,000 ventilators in order to adequately care for COVID-19 patients, who now represent the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak. He added that FEMA had only delivered 400 to the state so far.

President Trump questioned this number in an interview with Sean Hannity last night, telling the Fox talk show host, “A lot of equipment is being asked for that I don’t think they will need.” The president reversed course on this statement today, tweeting that there were thousands of ventilators in storage that needed to be distributed to New York “NOW.”

The White House had been working on a deal with General Motors and Ventec Life Systems to produce thousands of ventilators, but the announcement was stalled amid concerns about the cost and amount of time needed to get them to hospitals. On Friday afternoon the president announced he had implemented the Defense Production Act to “require General Motors to accept, perform, and prioritize Federal contracts for ventilators.”

Even as the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. grows, President Trump said he expects the nation to resume its normal activities by Easter, April 12. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House coronavirus task force, told NPR this date was an “aspirational goal.”

“He knows, and we’ve discussed this with him, that you have to be very flexible on that,” Fauci said Thursday. “He put that out because he wanted to give some hope to people. But he is not absolutely wed to that.”

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