Thursday marked yet another bleak day of the pandemic, with the United States reporting a record high of 100,667 Covid-19 hospitalizations, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
So far, each day this week has brought a new record.
More than 2,800 Covid-19 deaths were reported Wednesday in the United States – the most the country has ever reported in a single day.
As of Thursday evening, Johns Hopkins University has reported 203,304 new cases and 2,702 reported deaths for the day. This is the second highest daily report of new cases since the pandemic began.
One-day death totals can draw from delayed reports across several days. Still, recently soaring daily rates of infections and hospitalizations has various experts predicting the daily death count could regularly surpass 2,000 or 3,000, and perhaps approach 4,000.
The country’s daily average of Covid-19 deaths across a week is 1,654 – above its summer high of around 1,130 but lower than the pandemic peak above 2,240 in late April.
“By this time next week, we are going to be talking about 3,000 deaths a day – that’s 9/11 every single day,” Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at George Washington University, told CNN on Wednesday.
The death count reported Wednesday was 2,804, surpassing the previous one-day high of 2,603 set on April 15, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Earlier, JHU’s total for Wednesday was higher – but that count was corrected Thursday morning because of an error found in one state’s tally.
Coronavirus cases – which passed 14 million nationwide Thursday – and hospitalizations also have been soaring, prompting hospital and other officials to warn they’re running out of staff and capacity to adequately care for patients.
“We have stretched our health care worker staff as far as we can, and it will get to the point where the quality of care will be severely hampered if, in fact, we don’t have these health care workers,” Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy and a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s transition Covid-19 advisory board, said Thursday.
Health experts say they expect cases and hospitalizations to swell further in the coming week, when infections from Thanksgiving-week gatherings may noticeably accumulate.
“We’re not even going to see those (Thanksgiving) numbers until this weekend (or) early next week,” Dr. Leana Wen, CNN medical analyst and former Baltimore health commissioner, said Thursday. “And I think at this point it’s really important for us to flatten that (case) curve again, hunker down, stay at home and certainly not have any indoor gathering (or) non-essential travel.”
California Gov. Newsom announces new restrictions in hard-hit regions
States and communities across the US are racing to adjust to the skyrocketing number of coronavirus hospitalizations.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday announced new restrictions in hard-hit regions.
A strict stay-at home order will go into effect 48 hours after hospital intensive care unit capacity drops below 15% in any of five regions: Northern California, Bay Area, Greater Sacramento, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.
State officials project four of the regions will hit the 15% threshold in the next day or two, with only the San Francisco Bay Area expected to remain open until mid-December, Newsom said.
Essential businesses can remain open, but may only allow 20% capacity. Places that must be closed include hair salons and barbershops, bars and breweries, playgrounds, amusement parks and indoor recreation facilities.
In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday that If the virus continues to spread there at its current rate, Los Angeles will run out of hospital beds by Christmas. He called on residents to “hunker down” and “cancel everything” to help stop the spread.
A modified stay-at-home order began this week in Los Angeles County, prohibiting for three weeks all in-person dining and gathering with people outside a single household.
The county reported its highest totals of new cases (7,854) and hospitalizations (2,572) on Thursday.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the Sheriff’s Department will begin targeting large gatherings that could result in a significant spread of the coronavirus.
“Since March we have continued to focus on education and voluntary compliance regarding health orders,” Villanueva wrote on Twitter, but added, “Moving forward, we will additionally be conducting targeted enforcement on super-spreader events.”
CVS says it will be ready for priority vaccine distribution as early as December 15
In the US, vaccine candidates from Pfizer and Moderna are awaiting emergency use authorizations, with an FDA panel expected to meet about whether to authorize them on December 10 and December 17, respectively.
Assuming the vaccines are authorized, their first shipments could happen December 15 and 22, respectively, according to the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed. A CDC panel recommended this week that heath care workers and long-term care residents get inoculated first.
Pharmacy chain CVS plans to be ready to serve some of those groups as soon as December 15, should the approvals come, company chief medical officer Dr. Troy Brennan said Thursday.
Though details need to be hammered out with the CDC and individual states, the federal government has contracted with CVS and Walgreens to vaccinate long-term care facility residents and staff if vaccines are approved.
“Our plan is to be ready to go as early as December 15, waiting for the state approvals,” Brennan said.
Better days ahead, health expert says
While the US is going through the worst days of the pandemic, Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told CNN there is “light at the end of the tunnel.”
“This is the last really horrible surge of Covid that we will hopefully ever have to deal with,” Jha told CNN’s Pamela Brown.
By late January or early February, having people get vaccinated will make things meaningfully better. Then, by summer “life will look very, very different,” Jha said.
There may be occasional outbreaks in 2021 and beyond, he said, but we’ll never have the same kind of outbreak the country is experiencing now.
Correction: An earlier version of this story had a higher death tally for Wednesday, citing data from states that Johns Hopkins University was reporting at the time. The total was lowered to 2,804 on Thursday morning after JHU discovered an error with one state's count for Wednesday.
CNN’s Steve Almasy, Josh Campbell, Amanda Watts, Naomi Thomas, Cheri Mossburg, Jacqueline Howard, Sarah Moon, Raja Razek and Shelby Lin Erdman contributed to this report.