US reaches 2M confirmed COVID-19 cases as infection rates rise in 20 states, but vaccine trials give hope

NEW YORK -- The United States has confirmed more than 2 million cases of COVID-19, which has claimed the lives of around 113,000 Americans as of Thursday.

Infections of the new coronavirus continue to rise in 20 states and Puerto Rico, and in Texas, hospitalization rates have increased by 40% since Memorial Day.

An ABC News analysis has found that Texas and seven other states -- Arizona, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah -- are experiencing an increase in coronavirus-related hospitalizations since May 25.

There is no single reason for the surges. In some cases, more testing has revealed more cases. In others, local outbreaks are big enough to push statewide tallies higher. But experts think at least some are due to lifting stay-at-home orders, school and business closures, and other restrictions put in place during the spring to stem the virus's spread.

The virus is also gradually fanning out.

"It is a disaster that spreads," said Dr. Jay Butler, who oversees coronavirus response work at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "It's not like there's an entire continental seismic shift and everyone feels the shaking all at once."

Yet there is some hope in the race for a vaccine. The U.S. has selected three companies to begin phase three of their vaccine trials, Moderna will begin in July followed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca's in August and Johnson & Johnson in September.

Up to 9,000 volunteers will take part. Researchers say these vaccines are safe, but these trials are designed to determine if they are effective.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, is optimistic.

"We could have a vaccine by the end of this calendar year or in the first few months of 2021," he said on "Good Morning America" Wednesday.

Globally, more than 7.3 million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and over 416,000 of them have died. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some governments are hiding the scope of their nations' outbreaks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2020 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.