The number of people in the United States who have been infected with the coronavirus is likely to be 10 times as high as the 2.4 million confirmed cases, based on antibody tests, the head of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.
CDC director Robert Redfield's estimate indicates that at least 24 million Americans have been infected so far.
The antibody tests examine a person's blood for indicators that the immune system has mounted a response to an infection. The serological surveys are being done around the country as epidemiologists try to measure the reach of the virus to date.
Mr Redfield said he believes 5-8pc of the population has been infected so far.
Significantly, that would mean 92-95pc remain susceptible to a coronavirus infection. Experts say this is the critical data point showing that the pandemic remains in its early stages and people need to continue to try to limit the viral spread.
The CDC director's comments came as case counts continued to surge to record levels in many states, particularly in the south and west, during warm-weather months that many had hoped would provide a lull in the pandemic.
Alabama, Nevada and Missouri reported single-day records for new cases, a day after the national total hit a single-day high of 38,173 cases.
Amid signs that Texas has lost control of the epidemic, Gov Greg Abbott, a Republican, announced the state would pause its reopening to try to halt the flow of infections. He said he is focused on strategies to slow the viral spread "while also allowing Texans to continue earning a pay cheque to support their families. The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses".
As part of that pause, he suspended elective surgeries at hospitals in hard-hit Bexar, Dallas, Harris and Travis counties - home to the cities of San Antonio, Dallas, Houston and Austin, respectively. The rolling average of daily new cases in Texas has increased 62pc from the past week, jumping from 2,610 on June 18 to 4,227 on Thursday, according to 'The Washington Post'. The daily count has set a record each day for 13 consecutive days.
The economic crisis triggered by the pandemic continues to roil the corporate sector. Macy's said it is laying off 3,900 corporate employees and managers. Chuck E Cheese's parent company filed for bankruptcy protection. Both actions were due to the virus's impact on sales, the companies said.
Apple said Thursday it is re-closing 14 stores in Florida. The state reported a second consecutive day of more than 5,000 new confirmed cases.
Larry Kudlow, the White House's top economic official, said during an appearance on Fox Business Network that the administration does not anticipate a second wave of infections, which has been projected by health experts, and that new hot spots popping up across the country are scenarios Americans will "just have to live with".
Some officials in the Trump administration, including the president, argue the surging cases simply reflect expanded testing. But infectious-disease experts dispute that, saying they also reflect increased community transmission. (© The Washington Post)