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 fall 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 7-day average of new infections is now about 89,859, up by about 108% in just a month. 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 Wednesday, 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 on Wednesday 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.
And 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.
Division over a local lockdown
In a statement to CNN, Texas Gov. 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.
Samaniego ordered a two-week shutdown of all nonessential 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.” On Wednesday, the city of El Paso reported a record 3,100 new infections, with a running 7-day positivity rate of about 22.82%.
The city also set another record for the number of hospitalizations Wednesday, with at least 1,041 Covid-19 patients.
In his statement, 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,” Abbott’s statement said.
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 Gov. 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 Gov. Charlie Baker announced a Stay-At-Home advisory that will be going into effect from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. The governor also announced new restrictions around gatherings and a new closing time for indoor facilities, theaters and other venues.
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. Gov. Ned Lamont also recommended residents stay home between 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. to limit social socializing.
In one part of Kansas, closest ICU bed 6 hours away
In Kansas, Gov. 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 hospitalizations 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 hospitalized with Covid-19, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
Hospitalizations peaked in at least 16 states Wednesday, the project said, adding that 20 states have more than 1,000 people currently hospitalized with the virus.
In Kentucky, the governor said in a statement that hospitalizations are going up every day.
“These are a lot of Kentuckians who are fighting for their lives,” Gov. 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.”
CNN’s Claudia Dominguez and Joe Sutton contributed to this report.