Record-high coronavirus infections and hospitalisations have been reported in the US, with fears they will not slow in the run-up to Christmas.
On Wednesday, the country recorded its single-worst daily death toll since the pandemic began. Not since spring, during the pandemic’s first peak, were so many deaths reported. The high point then was 2,752 deaths on April 15. On Wednesday it was at least 2,760.
The number of Covid-19 patients in American hospitals also surpassed 100,000 for the first time, nearly double the number from spring during the coronavirus’s deadly first wave. Experts say it is a clear indicator of what the days ahead may look like.
The city of Los Angeles has reacted to an unprecedented surge there by ordering residents to stay at home.
Nationwide, infections are now closing in on 14 million, with more than 264,000 deaths, according to data from the Covid Tracking Project.
In response to surging numbers, US authorities have warned that the country’s healthcare system faces an unprecedented strain this winter.
“The reality is that December, January and February are going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation,” said Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
California, Texas and Florida – the three most populous US states – are among the worst-affected areas of the country, and have each registered more than one million cases.
US officials have said they expect infection numbers to continue rising over the next few days because many people travelled over the Thanksgiving holiday, ignoring government advice.
“Travel volume was high over Thanksgiving,” said Cindy Friedman, chief of the travellers’ health branch at the CDC.
“Even if only a small percentage of those people were carrying the disease and passed it on to other people, that can translate into hundreds of thousands of additional infections.”
The CDC has urged people to refrain from travel over Christmas. But the public health body has also relaxed its guidelines for how long people should quarantine after coming into contact with an infected person – shortening it from 14 days to between seven and 10.
Rita Osakwe/Agency Reports