The United States experienced the deadliest day of the pandemic on Thursday, reporting more than 4,000 coronavirus deaths for the first time, as cases and hospitalizations hit record highs after the holiday season.
The country has recorded a total of 4,033 coronavirus-related deaths, according to data from the Covid Tracking Project, led by record or near-record increases in Texas, Arizona and California. Death toll surpassed previous record of 3,903 December 30.
The number of people currently in US hospitals with Covid-19 has fallen to 132,370, down 94 from Wednesday’s peak. States reported 266,197 new infections, the second-largest single-day increase since the start of the pandemic, with New York, Florida and North Carolina setting daily records of new cases of more than 10,000 cases each.
Over the past week, 19,418 deaths in the United States have been attributed to the coronavirus, a record for a seven-day period, an average of 2,774 per day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts Thursday that 12,900 to 24,900 deaths “will likely be reported” in the week ending January 30.
As of that date, the CDC predicted the country’s total death toll to be between 405,000 and 438,000. This is compared to 356,229 deaths on Thursday, according to data from the Covid Tracking Project.
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Anthony Fauci, who will be the chief medical adviser to President-elect Joe Biden, said he believed “things will get worse as January approaches.”
“It will likely be a reflection of the vacation travel and gathering settings that generally take place socially during this time,” he said in an interview with NPR Thursday.
The latest increase in coronavirus deaths – which is lagging behind the increase in cases and hospitalizations – came from the southern and western states of the country, which were hit hard during the summer and see hospital resources exhausted. This surge is not just offsetting downward trends in mortality in the Midwest, which became a hotspot in the fall.
The sunbelt states of Texas and Arizona both reported their deadliest day in the pandemic on Thursday, with 393 and 297 deaths, respectively, as well as record levels of hospitalizations.
California has reported 583 deaths, just two from its Jan. 1 high, but hospitalizations have reached a record 22,851. There are only 1,210 intensive care unit beds available statewide, a all-time high, with no availability in major areas of southern California and the San Joaquin Valley.
In Los Angeles County, home to about a quarter of the state’s nearly 40 million people, hospitalizations have more than tripled since the end of November and about one in five people tested during the week last one was positive for the coronavirus.
Local officials have taken drastic steps this week in a bid to ease pressure on hospitals, ordering medical facilities to delay non-essential surgeries and paramedics to ration supplemental oxygen in times of shortage.
Heads of state expect conditions to become even more difficult. Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, said this week that a slight decline from the state’s record number of infections at the end of last month was likely a lull before a “skyrocket” that could stem from increased social interaction during the holiday season.
The latest national figures come after Pennsylvania, Texas and Connecticut on Thursday became the last US states to confirm their first cases of rapid spread British variant virus. Prior to the latest additions, a total of 52 cases of the mutant strain had been confirmed in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia and New York, according to the CDC.