While the United States has largely been focused on the slow drip of the presidential election results this week, the Covid-19 pandemic reached startling new heights in the country.
The US beat its own record of new daily cases for three days straight, topping 100,000 a day since Wednesday. On Friday, the US reported more than 126,000 new cases – the highest one-day tally yet, Johns Hopkins data show.
Daily infection tallies are regularly setting records, officials are reporting sharp increases in hospitalized patients and daily deaths are also climbing. The US reported more than 1,140 coronavirus deaths Friday, the fourth straight day that count has surpassed 1,000.
The pandemic will soon become the primary concern of President-elect Joe Biden. He plans to announce a 12-person coronavirus task force on Monday, two sources with knowledge of the announcement told CNN.
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 237,000 have died of Covid-19 in the US. Another 106,000 could lose their lives in the next two months, according to projections from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
With the virus running rampant in the country, many state leaders have pushed to implement new measures to curb the spread and avoid more hospitalizations and loss of life. Experts have warned that unless Americans heed safety guidelines like wearing masks and social distancing, things could get much worse.
On Friday, at least 17 states reported record high cases counts for a single day, according to Johns Hopkins. Washington, the site of the first US outbreak at the start of the pandemic, broke its record for new cases for the second day in a row on Sunday.
Sixteen states reported record-high Covid-19 hospitalizations, according to the COVID Tracking Project. And more than 54,000 coronavirus patients are now hospitalized across the country – not far from the country’s pandemic peak of 59,940 in mid-April – according to the project.
“We’re building up a lot of trouble for the future,” former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC. “You have to be really worried what January is going to look like, what December is going to look like right now, given the way this is rising.”
Officials look to Biden for renewed Covid-19 response
Biden’s task force will be headed by three co-chairs, including former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. David Kessler and Yale University’s Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith. The move signals how seriously Biden plans to focus on the coronavirus from the outset of his transition.
Shortly after CNN and other networks projected Biden as the winner of the election, political leaders expressed confidence in Biden’s future response to Covid-19 when he takes office.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer – a Democrat whose state, like many others, has been battered by the virus – congratulated Biden in a statement.
“Now, with the election behind us, it is time for the American people to unite against our common enemy: COVID-19,” she said.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, said he expected Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to “lead a strong and science-based approach to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and rebuilding our economy and addressing the hardship faced by millions.”
Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia highlighted the infections, deaths and unemployment that have occurred as a result of Covid-19, writing on Twitter, “The first order of businesses needs to be getting (Covid-19) under control & passing a relief package for the American people.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau underscored the importance of his country’s partnership with the US.
“We will further build on this foundation as we continue to keep our people safe and healthy from the impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic, and work to advance peace and inclusion, economic prosperity, and climate action around the world,” he said.
Three advisers to President Trump told CNN that his handling of the coronavirus was a massive factor in his election loss. A senior adviser said Trump’s dismissive attitude and misinformation about the virus alienated senior voters who rejected the President’s performance on Covid-19.
Only one state trending in the right direction
At least 41 states are reporting more Covid-19 infections than the previous week, and only one state – Tennessee – is trending in the right direction, according to Johns Hopkins data.
The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 12,438 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus and 76 deaths on Saturday, making this the third consecutive day of record-high case numbers and the second day that Illinois reported over 10,000 daily cases.
In a news release Friday, Colorado health officials said the newest Covid-19 model indicates state hospitalizations are increasing more sharply than last week’s projections. Keeping hospitals below demand capacity “will require substantial and rapid action to prevent transmission,” the release said
Colorado has reached its highest number of Covid-19 hospitalizations, exceeding its April peak, the officials said.
“We reached this even faster than the modeling predicted,” officials said. “If the epidemic curve is not bent, Colorado could surpass intensive care unit (ICU) capacity in late December instead of January as reported in last week’s modeling report.”
In Ohio, the governor said Friday the state saw 5,008 new infections, the highest number of cases recorded in a 24-hour period. The climbing numbers are likely to trigger new mandates, he said.
“When we see our hospitals starting to fill up,” Gov. Mike DeWine said, “the orders we will have to implement when it really gets dire will be uniform throughout Ohio.”
In some parts of the country, new orders have already arrived.
“We know we’re asking a lot here,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said. “And it comes on top of asking a lot of employers and residents for many months now with the virus. As we’ve said before, it isn’t going anywhere, and until there’s a vaccine or medical breakthrough, it’s us against the virus.”
CNN’s Jim Acosta, Sahar Akbarzai, Haley Brink, Jen Christensen, Jamie Gumbrecht, Raja Razek, Alec Snyder and Jeff Zeleny contributed to this report.