The US recorded a staggering 102,831 new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday — the first time since the start of the pandemic it has reported a six-figure number.
The new high, as harrowing as it is, is only one part of a number of grim indicators pointing to what experts have already projected: an unprecedented autumn and winter surge that will likely continue to get worse.
In just the past week, the US saw its top five days with the highest case numbers, with the country’s previous record set at 99,321 infections on October 30. The nationwide seven-day average of new infections is now about 89,859, up by about 108 per cent in just a month.
People line up behind a health care worker at a mobile coronavirus testing site at the Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science, in Los Angeles. (AP)Now more than 9.4 million Americans have been infected with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic and more than 233,000 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
And every day, states across the country continue to report alarming patterns. At least 36 states are reporting more new cases than the previous week while only three states — Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee — are trending in the right direction, according to Johns Hopkins.
In Oregon, health officials reported 597 new cases yesterday, the sixth time in a week the number has topped 500. And the state’s single-day record, 600 cases, was set on October 30.
Wisconsin broke its daily case count record with more than 5,930 cases, while both Illinois and Ohio recorded their second-highest daily number of cases.
Officials are urging the public to take protective health measures. (AP)
As public health officials urge residents to lean into health measures that have proven effective in helping curb the spread of the virus — like face masks and social distancing — they’re also worried about what’s to come in the coming weeks.
With the Thanksgiving holiday now just weeks away, experts fear Americans will let their guard down and opt to gather with family and friends and help fuel an already rampant spread of the virus.
Salt Lake County Health Department public health nurses look on during coronavirus testing outside the Salt Lake County Health Department. (AP)
Division over a local lockdown
In a statement to CNN, Texas Governor Greg Abbott was critical of a shutdown ordered by El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego, saying the judge “illegally” shut down businesses in response to a rise in infections.
Mr Samaniego ordered a two-week shutdown of all non-essential services last week, saying at the time that hospitals and health care professionals were overwhelmed and that without a response, “we will see unprecedented levels of deaths.”
Yesterday, the city of El Paso reported a record 3100 new infections, with a running seven-day positivity rate of about 22.82 per cent.
The city also set another record for the number of hospitalisations yesterday, with at least 1041 COVID-19 patients.
A health care worker administers a COVID-19 test at a site sponsored by Community Heath of South Florida. In early July 2020, California is averaging 91 reported COVID-19 deaths per day while Texas is close behind with 66, but Florida, Arizona, Illinois, New Jersey and South Carolina also saw sizable rises. (AP/Lynne Sladky)
In his statement, Mr Abbott said the county judge “made it clear that he had not been enforcing existing protocols allowed under law” that could help curb the virus “while allowing businesses to safely open.”
“He failed to do his job and is now illegally shutting down entire businesses which will cause further harm to El Pasoans who are already suffering economically due to the pandemic. These protocols proved effective to slow the spread over the summer and will work now, but only if they are enforced,” Mr Abbott’s statement said.
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The state’s attorney general announced Tuesday his office had filed a motion for a temporary injunction to stop the judge’s “unlawful lockdown order, which flies in the face of Governor Greg Abbott’s executive orders on COVID-19.”
The Texas city isn’t alone in trying to set new restrictions amid the nationwide surge of infections.
Earlier this week, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced a Stay-At-Home advisory that will be going into effect from 10pm to 5am. The governor also announced new restrictions around gatherings and a new closing time for indoor facilities, theatres and other venues.
President Donald Trump’s election rallies have reportedly been linked to COVID-19 spikes across the country. (AP / Evan Vucci)
Connecticut also announced a tightening of restrictions this week in response to climbing COVID-19 numbers, which included new limitations on restaurants, religious ceremonies and indoor event spaces. Governor Ned Lamont also recommended residents stay home between 10pm to 5am to limit socialising.
In one part of Kansas, closest ICU bed six hours away
In Kansas, Governor Laura Kelly said the state had another “very difficult week for virus spread” and that since Monday, there had been “91 new COVID-19 related hospitalisations statewide.”
Hospital capacity — usually a problem that hits rural counties especially hard — is becoming a problem in some parts of the state, the governor said. At least one hospital last week was about six hours away from the closest ICU bed available, the governor said.
Across the US, more than 52,000 people are hospitalised with COVID-19. (AP)
Hospitalisations peaked in at least 16 states on Wednesday, the project said, adding that 20 states have more than 1000 people currently hospitalised with the virus.
In Kentucky, the governor said in a statement that hospitalisations are going up every day.
“These are a lot of Kentuckians who are fighting for their lives,” Governor Andy Beshear said in a statement. “There’s a lot of pain out there and it’s hitting everybody. We’re thinking of every family, whether we know you or we don’t. We hurt with you and we grieve with you.”
Dr Steven Stack, Commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health said officials are concerned “not that we will first run out of bed space but that we may not have enough health care workers to staff all those beds.”
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