For the first time since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. is reporting a weekly average of more than 2,000 Covid-19 deaths every day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, as infections rip through the country and record hospitalizations tax the nation’s health-care system.
More than 2,600 people died from Covid on Friday after more than 2,800 fatalities were reported on Thursday, a single-day record of the pandemic. More than 2,000 people have died everyday from the virus since the month began.
The U.S. reported more than 227,800 Covid-19 cases on Friday, a record-breaking spike as more people are hospitalized with the virus than at any other point during the pandemic.
The U.S. is reporting a record weekly average of 182,663 cases a day as states work to catch up to normal reporting schedules after building a backlog over the Thanksgiving holiday, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins.
However, the nation’s hospitals are reporting a record number of patients — 101,276 people — sickened with Covid-19, a sign that the outbreak is growing more severe, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project, which is run by journalists at The Atlantic.
“The reality is December and January and February are going to be rough times. I actually believe they’re going to be the most difficult in the public health history of this nation, largely because of the stress that’s going to be put on our health-care system,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Wednesday.
In a dire warning on Wednesday, President-elect Joe Biden said that 250,000 more people are projected to die from Covid “because people aren’t paying attention.” More than 279,000 people in the U.S. have already died since the pandemic began and more than 14.3 million have been infected with the virus, according to Johns Hopkins data.
The wave of Covid patients is adding stress to hospital systems nationwide. States like New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island have erected field hospitals to prepare for an influx of sick patients.
Unlike the spring when the rush of coronavirus patients spurred health-care workers from across the country to travel to hotspots like New York to help treat the sick, hospital systems across the country are facing their own emergencies with no room to spare, experts say.
“If we talked about these two issues of capacity and staffing, it’s really about having the staff to care for people,” Nancy Foster, vice president of quality and patient safety at the American Hospital Association, told CNBC earlier this week. “You can get creative without a bed, but nurses and doctors and respiratory therapist and other staff are critical. And you can’t just invent those overnight.”
Health-care workers will be spread thin as the number of patients grows, with some of them falling ill with Covid-19 themselves.
While the medical community has learned how to better treat Covid-19 patients, “the number one risk for dying from coronavirus in the hospital is whether or not doctors and nurses are overwhelmed, overstretched, or if they have the time to spend with every single patient really carefully monitoring everything,” Dr. Celine Gounder, a Covid-19 advisor to Biden and an infectious disease specialist at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, told MSNBC on Thursday.
Covid-19 cases were already on the rise before Thanksgiving when more than 3 million people traveled through the nation’s airports, marking the busiest travel weekend since lockdown orders hit in mid-March. The CDC now advises that people avoid traveling and gathering through the winter holidays.
“I know how difficult that is, we all have a strong degree of empathy knowing — and myself included — about wanting to be with your family, wanting to have a large Christmas dinner with family and friends over,” White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci told MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” on Thursday.
“Right now that just should not be done. To the best of our capabilities we should avoid travel and avoid congregate settings,” he said.
The U.S. is likely to see a “surge upon a surge” of Covid-19 cases, with crowds of shoppers and ill-advised holiday parties threatening to compound an already raging outbreak, Fauci told Colorado Gov. Jared Polis earlier in the week.
“If you look across the United States, we are really in a public health crisis right now,” Fauci said. “Now that we’re in the mid to late fall, merging on into the winter, we’ve seen, because a variety of circumstances, a surge that has really surpassed the others.”