US surpasses 8 million COVID-19 cases, according to Johns Hopkins

The United States has officially surpassed 8 million confirmed coronavirus cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, as health officials prepare for what may be devastating winter amid the ongoing pandemic and incoming flu season. 

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield warned in August that Americans could be facing “the worst fall” season in recent memory due to the potentially deadly combination of the novel coronavirus, the seasonal flu, and people who aren’t abiding by COVID-19 preventative measures.

Dr. Tom Frieden, a former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently warned that another 20,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States by the end of the October is “inevitable.”

RELATED: Study: True US COVID-19 death toll likely much higher than reported

More than 218,000 deaths had been attributed to the virus in the U.S. as of Oct. 16, but a study published earlier this week from a team of researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University and Yale suggests that the total number of U.S. deaths from COVID-19 is likely much higher than what has been officially counted and reported. 

According to the study, which was published on Oct. 12 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, from March 1 through Aug. 1, 1,336,561 people died of all causes in the United States, a 20% increase over the 1,111,031 deaths expected based on historical data from the National Center for Health Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Researchers said that of the 225,530 excess deaths, 65% were attributed to COVID-19.

"Excess deaths attributed to causes other than COVID-19 could reflect deaths from unrecognized or undocumented infection with [COVID-19] or deaths among uninfected patients resulting from disruptions produced by the pandemic," the study’s authors wrote.

A man wears a face mask as he check his phone in Times Square on March 22, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images)

A surge in cases has been reported around the country ahead of the holidays and just days away from the 2020 presidential election.

The pandemic has prompted millions of Americans to vote by mail this election over fears of potential exposure to the coronavirus at busy polling locations. 

Wisconsin broke records this week for new coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations, leading to the opening of a field hospital to handle the influx of COVID-19 patients. Gov. Tony Evers said he plans to activate the Wisconsin National Guard to fill any staffing shortages at election sites.

In Iowa, Scott County Auditor Roxanna Moritz opened additional early voting sites in and around Davenport, the state's third-largest city, to try to reduce the number people casting ballots on Election Day and to keep the virus from spreading in large precincts.

On the vaccine development front, scientists have cautioned that it’s unlikely that necessary data for an FDA emergency use authorization of a leading vaccine candidate would come before late November or December. 

RELATED: Eli Lilly pauses COVID-19 antibody drug trial over potential safety concerns

On Friday, Pfizer’s CEO said the company cannot seek emergency authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine before the third week of November — and that's if everything goes well. The vaccine, made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, is among several leading candidates in final testing.

On Monday,  a late-stage study of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate was paused while the company investigates whether a study participant’s “unexplained illness” is related to the inoculation.

Eli Lilly and Company said on Tuesday that it has delayed enrollment in clinical trials of its antibody treatment for COVID-19 to “ensure the safety of the patients participating in this study” due to a potential safety concern.

Even if a vaccine emerges by year’s end, only limited doses will be available right away. 

The Associated Press contributed to this story.