A day after the US set a daily record for new coronavirus infections, it came very close to doing it again.
Data published by Johns Hopkins University showed that 83,718 new cases were reported nationally on Saturday, nearly matching the 83,757 infections reported on Friday. Before that, the most cases reported in the US on a single day had been 77,362 on 16 July.
Close to 8.6m Americans have contracted the coronavirus since the pandemic began, and about 225,000 have died. Both statistics are the world’s highest. India has more than 7.8m infections but its daily numbers have been declining.
On Saturday night, an outbreak was reported among officials working for Vice-President Mike Pence, chief of staff Marc Short among them.
US health officials have feared the surge of infections to come with colder weather and people spending more time indoors, especially as many flout guidelines to protect themselves and others such as mask-wearing and social distancing.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington currently forecasts that the country’s death toll could exceed 318,000 by 1 January.
Many states are badly affected but some are suffering more than others. Michigan reported more than 3,000 new confirmed cases on Saturday – its highest daily count yet. The 3,338 new cases surpassed the previous single-day record of 2,030, set on 15 October. The state health agency reported 35 deaths, raising Michigan’s toll to 7,182.
Dr Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s chief medical executive, said it was “now more important than ever that people take this seriously” and urged residents to wear a face mask every time they are around someone outside of their own household, to practice social distancing and avoid large gatherings.
In Texas, a surge in the border city of El Paso continued with a record 1,216 new cases on Saturday, nearly 20% of the state’s 6,125 new cases, according to health officials. There have been 3,346 cases in the city in the past three days, according to health reports. El Paso has reported 38,554 total cases since March.
“Today’s spike is part of an unfortunate national surge that we have been planning and preparing for,” public health director Angela Mora said. “Now, we need our community to help us by doing their part and staying home, if and when possible, for the next two weeks in order to stop the rapid the spread of the virus.”
Governor Greg Abbott has sent medical equipment and about 500 personnel. There have been more than 858,000 cases in Texas and nearly 17,500 deaths, 81 reported on Saturday.
Tennessee recorded 2,574 new cases on Saturday and 24 new deaths, bringing deaths in the state to 3,100.
One hospital said it was suspending all elective procedures requiring an overnight stay due to a surge in patients with Covid, the Daily Herald of Columbia reported. As of Friday evening, Columbia’s Maury Regional Medical Center was treating 50 Covid-19 patients, 20 of whom were in the 26-bed intensive care unit.
On Thursday, the Tennessee Department of Health reported that hospitalizations had reached a new record of 1,300 and said it had an ICU bed availability of just 11%.
Martin Chaney, Maury Regional’s chief medical officer, said small home gatherings have become the emerging threat.
“In our homes, we all let our guard down,” Chaney said. “You think it is safe to not socially distance, and you take your masks off. That is spreading the disease very rapidly.”
He said Maury Regional has consistently seen a surge in cases about two weeks after each major holiday.
“The time has long passed for our community to take this virus seriously,” said Alan Watson, chief executive of Maury Regional Health.