LOS ANGELES - A year since the deadly coronavirus was first identified, the U.S. surpassed 20 million cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The grim milestone comes as the nation continues to be inundated by wave after wave of new coronavirus cases and deaths.
The nation surpassed 15 million cases last month amid a surge where more than 1 million Americans fell ill to the virus in the first five days of December.
Now, nearly one-quarter of the more than 83 million coronavirus cases globally are Americans. COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have also totaled more than 346,000.
India and Brazil trail behind the U.S. in coronavirus cases at over 10 million and 7 million, respectively.
The increase comes as officials race to vaccinate millions of Americans but have come off to a slower and messier start.
President-elect Joe Biden criticized the Trump administration Tuesday for the pace of distributing COVID-19 vaccines and vowed to ramp up the current speed of vaccinations. However, Biden acknowledged that it "will still take months to have the majority of Americans vaccinated."
California is currently the hardest-hit state, with the worst coronavirus diagnosis rate in the country. The state’s southern half has seen the worst effects, from the agricultural San Joaquin Valley to the Mexico border. Hospitals are swamped with patients, and intensive care units have no more beds for COVID-19 patients. Makeshift wards are being set up in tents, arenas, classrooms and conference rooms.
Hospitalizations statewide have gone up more than eightfold in two months and nearly tenfold in Los Angeles County. On Thursday, the total number of California deaths surpassed 25,000, joining only New York and Texas at that milestone.
"Most heartbreaking is that if we had done a better job of reducing transmission of the virus, many of these deaths would not have happened," said Barbara Ferrer, the county's public health director, who has pleaded with people not to get together and worsen the spread.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.