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'Preventable tragedy': US reaches 40 million COVID-19 cases with nearly 650,000 deaths

Cases continue to surge as the delta variant spreads despite the availability of three COVID vaccines.

WASHINGTON — The United States has reached 40 million coronavirus cases on Tuesday, with more than 4 million positive tests occurring in the past 28 days, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.

That's just the total number of officially reported positive results. Health experts believe that the actual total number is much higher.

There have also been nearly 650,000 deaths related to the virus in the United States, while more than 4.5 million deaths have been reported globally, according to Johns Hopkins.

The U.S. has the highest number of positive cases and COVID-related deaths. India is in second with more than 33 million cases and almost 112,000 deaths. 

Cases have been surging as the delta variant is spreading throughout the country. Before Labor Day, the White House COVID-19 Response Team held a briefing pushing for more people to get vaccinated and wear a mask at indoor gatherings.

The Biden administration is continuing its campaign for what it calls a more "science-driven approach" to containing the COVID-19 pandemic, and CDC leadership continues to push for further an expansion of testing and vaccinations. 

According to the CDC, more than 176 million people in the United States have been fully vaccinated. Currently, unvaccinated people overwhelmingly account for new cases and serious infections, with a recent study of government data showing that hospitalization rates among unvaccinated adults were 17 times higher than among those fully vaccinated. 

“As I’ve said before, the pandemic of the unvaccinated is a tragedy that is preventable,” Biden said in recent remarks on his administration's COVID-19 response.

The White House has listed the fight against COVID-19 as a top priority. 

"Masks are not forever, but they are for now," Dr. Walensky explained on Wednesday, adding that wearing a face mask is the easiest way for anyone to help slow the spread of coronavirus infections.

The push for vaccinations and slowing the spread also comes as many more kids are heading back to the classroom following the holiday weekend. The CDC director also reiterated the agency's recommendations, saying it's "critically important" for students, teachers, staff and visitors to wear face masks in schools.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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