The United States has just recorded the highest number of daily COVID-19 deaths in six months – as infections and hospitalizations continue to spike to record highs across the country.
The death toll spiked to 1,893 on Wednesday, which is the highest number of fatalities since May 8 during the initial peak of the outbreak. It puts the seven-day rolling average of fatalities back over 1,000 per day – a figure not seen since August. The average death toll had hit lows of 600 last month before gradually increasing.
Meanwhile, infections across the country hit a record high for the second consecutive day with 144,133 cases on Wednesday. New cases have continued to soar to all-time highs of more than 120,000 per day over the past week.
The number of hospitalizations across the US also continues to spike to single-day highs with more than 65,000 patients currently being treated.
While new cases and hospitalizations have been surging since October, the number of Americans dying per day has not been rising at the same rates.
Deaths, which are a lagging indicator and can potentially rise weeks after infections, are still down from the peak 2,000 fatalities recorded per day in the spring.
The increases come as Joe Biden’s new COVID advisor said the US should go into a total national lockdown for six weeks to avoid ‘virus hell’ and suggested that the federal government pay workers while country is shutdown.
The US death toll spiked to 1,893 on Wednesday, which is the highest number of fatalities since May 8 during the initial peak of the outbreak. The average number of deaths, which are a lagging indicator and can potentially rise weeks after infections, are still down from the peak 2,000 fatalities recorded per day in the spring
Infections across the country hit a record high of 144,133 cases on Wednesday. New cases have continued to soar to all-time highs of more than 120,000 per day over the past week
Biden, since winning the election last week, has repeatedly appeared on TV urging Americans to wear masks to stop the spread of the virus.
President Trump, however, has been noticeably silent about the ongoing pandemic. He has, instead, repeated claims that he believes the election was stolen from him due to voter fraud.
This new wave is more widespread than the surges that happened in the spring and summer, which occurred in the Northeast and Sunbelt states, respectively.
While fatalities could still potentially rise given it takes time for people to get sick and die, doctors believe the death toll might not be as bad as the initial waves because doctors now better know how to treat severe cases, meaning higher percentages of the COVID-19 patients who go into intensive care units are coming out alive.
Patients also have the benefit of new treatments, namely remdesivir, the steroid dexamethasone and an antibody drug that won emergency-use approval from the Food and Drug Administration this week.
Health officials have warned, however, that patients could start dying if hospitals become overwhelmed.
More than 241,000 Americans have now died from COVID-19 and there have been 10.4 million confirmed cases.
A forecast from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics estimates that the death toll could reach nearly 400,000 by February. Researchers forecast that 63,000 lives could be saved if the majority of Americans wear masks and social distance.
Cases per day are currently on the rise in 49 states and deaths per day are climbing in 39.
Midwestern states, including North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, are currently seeing a surge in fatalities – weeks after cases and hospitalizations started to spike in those regions.
Texas on Wednesday became the first state with more than 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and California followed closely behind with more than 984,000 cases. Despite the uptick in cases and hospitalizations in those two populous states, deaths are not trending upwards there.
The number of hospitalizations across the US also continues to spike to single-day highs with more than 65,000 patients currently being treated
Dr. Michael Osterholm, who was appointed to Joe Biden’s COVID-19 task force Monday, has suggested the US should go into a national four to six week lockdown as it awaits a vaccine
States re-imposing lockdown measures
CALIFORNIA: Based on tiered system that affects counties differently. In hard-hit areas like Los Angeles County, people urged to stay at home. Bars, restaurants and gyms all closed. LA parks and golf courses are still open.
CONNECTICUT: Restaurants must stop table service at 9.30pm and private gatherings have been cut to 10 people.
IDAHO: Outdoor gatherings limited to 25% of maximum capacity and indoor ones to 50 people. Customers must remain seated in bars and restaurants.
ILLINOIS: No indoor service in bars or restaurants, which must also close at 11pm. Gatherings are limited to 25 people.
NEW MEXICO: Retail business must close by 10pm. Food and drink establishments can offer no more than 25% capacity for indoor dining.
NEW YORK: Bars, restaurants and gyms must close at 10pm. Indoor private gatherings limited to 10 people.
NEW JERSEY: Restaurants, bars, clubs and lounges to stop indoor dining by 10pm. All barside seating prohibited. All interstate games and tournaments for indoor K-12 sports banned.
MINNESOTA: Restaurants and bars must shut by 10pm.
Health experts have blamed the current surges, in part, on the onset of cold weather and growing frustration with mask-wearing and other public health measures.
California, New York and several states across the Midwest have now started tightening restrictions on residents.
In Minnesota, Governor Tim Walz has also announced new restrictions, including restaurants and bars shutting by 10pm.
New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murphy has ordered all restaurants, bars, clubs and lounges to stop indoor dining by 10pm. He is also banning all interstate games and tournaments for indoor K-12 sports.
New York Gov Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday began reinstating restrictions on his state by ordering bars, restaurants and gyms to close by 10pm. He has also now banned indoor gatherings inside homes for more than 10 people.
The restrictions came as the statewide COVID-19 rate increased to 2.9 percent, which is the highest it has been for six months.
Deaths and hospitalizations are currently increasing in some parts of the state but not all.
In New York City, for example, deaths have been holding steady despite the rising infection rate. The rate in the city is now at 2.52 percent.
New York’s average infection rate back in April, when the state was the epicenter of the US outbreak, was as high as 48 percent.
It comes as Dr Michael Osterholm, who is a COVID-19 advisor to president elect Joe Biden, said a nationwide lockdown for six weeks about prevent the US from entering ‘Covid hell’ until a vaccine can be distributed.
Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, is one of the public health experts that the Biden transition team has appointed to its advisory panel.
‘We could pay for a package right now to cover all of the wages, lost wages for individual workers for losses to small companies to medium-sized companies or city, state, county governments. We could do all of that,’ he told CNBC.
‘If we did that, then we could lockdown for four-to-six weeks.’
He suggested that such a lockdown would bring the US in line with the likes of New Zealand and Australia where new daily cases have been reduced to under 10 cases.
‘We could really watch ourselves cruising into the vaccine availability in the first and second quarter of next year while bringing back the economy long before that,’ he told CNBC.
Osterholm suggested that there were worse days ahead for the country if this kind of action isn’t taken.
He spoke of places such as El Paso, Texas, where officials have already closed businesses as the healthcare system becomes overwhelmed and claimed that ‘people don’t want to hear that El Paso isn’t an isolated event’.
‘El Paso, in many instances, will become the norm,’ he said.
‘I think that the message is how do we get through this. We need FDR moments right now. We need fireside chats. We need somebody to tell America, “this is what in the hell is going to happen”,’ he said.
Earlier this week, Osterholm suggested that the country is going to ‘Covid hell’ if it doesn’t take actions to tackle the rising cases soon.
He said that the next three to four months will be the darkest period for the pandemic so far.
‘What America has to understand is that we are about to enter Covid hell,’ he told CNBC. ‘It is happening.’
‘We have not even come close to the peak and, as such, our hospitals are now being overrun. The next three to four months are going to be, by far, the darkest of the pandemic.’
Despite Osterholm’s calls for a national lockdown, the latest Gallup polling shows that less than half of Americans say they will likely comply.
About 49 percent of Americans polled between October 19 and November 1 said they would be ‘very likely’ to stay home if a lockdown was reinstated. That figure is down from the 67 percent who said they would stay home during the spring peak.
More than 30 percent said they would not comply with lockdown orders, which is double the amount seen in April.
Dr Anthony Fauci said he wants to avoid a national lockdown because there is ‘no appetite for locking down the American public’.
He has insisted that a national lockdown doesn’t need to happen if people adhere to public health measures like mask-wearing and hand-washing.
‘We would like to stay away from that because there’s no appetite for locking down the American public. I believe we can do it without a lockdown,’ Fauci told ABC’s GMA on Thursday.
‘You don’t necessarily have to shut everything down. The best opposite strategy to locking down is to intensify the public health measures short of locking down. If you can do that well, you don’t have to take that step… which has so many implications both psychologically and economically.
‘Help is on the way. Vaccines are going to have a major positive impact.’
A vaccine appears imminent following Pfizer’s announcement earlier this week that its trial showed its treatment was 90 percent effective.
The US drugmaker said it expects to apply for FDA approval next week, which could mean vaccinations could start in December.
America’s COVID-19 cases compared to locked down Europe: Hospitalizations and cases are rising but below levels in hard-hit EU countries
America’s largest states still have lower infection rates than the major economies of Western Europe, despite their growing COVID-19 outbreaks, while the burden on US hospitals is also rising but less severe.
Weekly infection rates per 100,000 people in California (108), Texas (198), New York (117) and Florida (131) are significantly lower than in the UK (235), Spain (298), Italy (378) or France (523), and similar to Germany (151).
However, America’s worst-hit states in the Midwest are seeing higher rates still, including Wisconsin (735), Iowa (889) and North Dakota (1,190).
Much of Europe is now back in lockdown, with Britain and France imposing month-long stay-at-home orders, and Germany closing bars and restaurants.
Italy is trying to avoid a second national lockdown but bars are now closed in many regions. Spain last month imposed a national 11pm curfew.
Europe’s higher infection rates are also piling greater strain on hospitals, including in France which now has a near-record of 31,900 people in hospital with Covid-19, of whom 4,800 are in intensive care.
France currently has 48 patients in hospital for every 100,000 people, compared to 45 in Spain and 21 in Britain.
The figures for America’s most populous states are 10 in California, 21 in Texas, 14 in Florida and 8 in New York.