The United States has reported its highest ever daily COVID-19 death toll with 117 Americans dying every hour in the past day.
There were 2,804 deaths recorded yesterday, which is up considerably from the previous record of 2,603 reported back on April 15 during the initial peak of the pandemic.
Earlier, John Hopkins University had reported a staggering 3,157 deaths but revised the death toll this morning following an error in reporting from Nevada.
Hospitalizations and cases across the country continue to surge in the wake of Thanksgiving with just over 100,000 patients being treated yesterday and 200,000 confirmed infections.
Of the record number of people hospitalized, more than 19,000 are in ICUs and nearly 7,000 people are on a ventilator, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
President-elect Joe Biden, without citing what data he was referring to, warned that as many as 250,000 more people will die by January when he takes office.
The CDC, which had issued warnings against Thanksgiving gatherings, has now urged Americans not to travel at Christmas in a bid to prevent further surges.
‘The best thing for Americans to do during the holiday season is to stay at home and not travel,’ Dr Henry Walke, the CDC’s incident manager for COVID-19 response, told reporters in a media call. ‘Cases are rising. Hospitalizations are increasing. Deaths are increasing. We need to try to bend the curve, stop this exponential increase.’
The surge prompted Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to issue new lockdown orders yesterday as he warned that the city could run out of hospital beds by Christmas if the current surge in cases continues.
Under the new restrictions, people have been asked to stay in their homes, all travel including walking has been banned and non-essential businesses have been closed. Residents face potential arrest if they break the new restrictions.
The record-breaking tallies for both hospitalizations and new cases come as the CDC officially cut the quarantine period for people exposed to coronavirus from 14 days to between seven and 10 days and a leaked White House report revealed the US is ‘at historic risk’ for uncontrolled coronavirus transmission.
The CDC is now recommending that if you receive a negative test, you can resume normal activity seven days after you were first exposed.
If you choose not to receive test, you can resume day-to-day activities after 10 days.
CDC Director Dr Robert Redfield issued a somber warning saying the country faces the prospect of a healthcare system strained to the point of collapse if the current COVID-19 trends continue.
The virus has now reached every corner of the country – with 90 percent of all hospitals in areas designated as coronavirus ‘hot zones’ – and continues to spread on a much steeper trajectory than any previous wave of the pandemic.
‘The reality is that December, January and February are going to be rough times,’ Redfield told a livestream presentation hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation. ‘I actually believe they’re going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation.’
President-elect Joe Biden echoed the bleak forecast during a roundtable with workers and small business owners hard hit by the devastating economic fallout of the pandemic.
Biden, who warned of a ‘dark winter’, made the dire prediction that 250,000 more Americans could die over the next two months.
He did not offer details to back up his assessment.
‘We’re likely to lose another 250,000 people dead between now and January,’ Biden said. ‘You hear me? Because people aren’t paying attention.
‘You cannot be traveling during these holidays, as much as you want to.’
Dr Cindy Friedman, chief of the CDC’s travelers health branch, said that even a small percentage of people leaving their homes could lead to thousands of cases.
‘Travel is a door-to-door experience that can spread the virus during the journey and into communities where travelers visit or live,’ she said. ‘We know it’s a hard decision, and people need time to prepare and have discussions with family and friends and to make these decisions.’
Similar recommendations were issued by the CDC ahead of Thanksgiving, with guidance towards staying home and postponing travel.
However, millions of Americans ignored the warnings and the number of people passing through Travel Security Administration checkpoints in airports were at their highest levels since mid-March.
A leaked report from the White House revealed that ‘the COVID risk to all Americans is at an historic high.’
‘We are in a very dangerous place,’ the task force said in the report, sent to states on Tuesday and obtained by NBC News.
The report, which is sent every week to US states, appeared to show the entire country as one giant hotspot with almost every county reporting at least 200 cases per 100,000 people.
New cases per capita are shown on a gruesome map in the report, in which nearly the entire U.S. appears as one giant hotspot, with 19 states including North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and New Mexico, ranking as top areas of concern after reporting at least 500 new cases per every 100,000 residents last week.
A second map shows 27 states, including the Dakota, New Mexico and Montana, suffered more than 100 deaths per 100,000 residents last week.
While the virus is surging coast to coast, Midwest states continue to be among the hardest hit in the country based on cases and deaths per 100,000 people.
As of today, Minnesota is now the worst affected state with 100 cases per 100,000 people in the last week, CDC data shows.
South Dakota follows with 98 cases, Wyoming with 95 cases and Nebraska with 93 cases.
The worst affected states for deaths per capita are South Dakota with 2.1 deaths per 100,000 residents in the last seven days.
North Dakota follows with 1.5 deaths and Wyoming with 1.1 fatalities.
North Dakota, which was the hardest hit last month in both cases and deaths, has now seen one in every 800 residents die from COVID-19.