The US recorded 2,015 deaths from Covid-19 on Thursday, the highest number of new deaths in a single day since May, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, as a top White House expert warned of worsening spread of the disease – even as America is just weeks away from the expected beginnings of vaccinating its people.
The country also saw more than 187,000 new confirmed cases on Thursday, another record for the daily count of infections.
Just weeks after the US first exceeded 100,000 new cases in a single day earlier this month, new cases are now on track to reach a grim daily milestone of 200,000.
On Wednesday, total US deaths due to Covid-19 reached 250,000 – the most seen of any country in the world. At least 11 million Americans have been infected with the virus over the course of the pandemic, which began hitting the US in January.
This month, the number of Americans currently hospitalized with the coronavirus has been the highest it has ever been, surpassing 80,000 people across the country on Thursday, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
Unlike previous surges of the virus, the uptick in cases is not concentrated in a single region. Cases have been rising in nearly every state, a concerning scenario as the US holiday season kicks into gear.
Dr Deborah Birx, a senior scientist on the White House’s coronavirus taskforce, told CNN Friday morning that more than half of the country is in the “red zone”, meaning more than 101 new cases per 100,000 residents.
“It’s faster, it’s broader and what worries me is it could be longer,” Birx said of the spread of the virus.
Public health experts have been pleading with the American public for weeks to limit or cancel any gatherings typically seen around Thanksgiving. A new ad campaign from a coalition of healthcare systems across the country begs Americans to wear masks, as hospitals become more overwhelmed.
“I’m making personal sacrifices not to infect my parents and my pregnant daughter,” Birx said. “It’s on all of us now to make sure [the spread] is not longer.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidelines around Thanksgiving that reiterates that “staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year”. Most states have some type of mandatory quarantine for travelers, with some exceptions to those who test negative for the virus.
On Thursday, Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, made his first appearance at a White House coronavirus press briefing after months of being sidelined by Donald Trump and steering clear of infections in Trump top circles. At the podium, Fauci emphasized the importance of “simple public health measures” as the country comes closer to a vaccine for the virus.
“Mask wearing, social distance, avoiding congregant settings, doing things to the extent that we can outdoors versus indoors,” Fauci said. “If we do that, we’ll be able to hold things off until the vaccine comes.”
Public health experts believe a vaccine could be available to Americans with the highest priority by the end of this calendar year. On Friday, drugmaker Pfizer said it has asked the Food and Drug Administration to approve emergency use of its Covid-19 vaccine. At the White House press briefing, Fauci praised the vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna, another drug company, seen in clinical trials.
“We need to actually double down on the public health measures as we’re waiting for that help to come, which will be soon,” he said.