The United States has hit another grim milestone, marking over 250,000 deaths from the coronavirus since the pandemic began, according to data from Johns Hopkins released on Wednesday.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S. has doubled in the past month and set new records in recent days.
Newly confirmed infections per day in the U.S. have exploded more than 80% over the past two weeks to the highest levels on record, with the daily count running at close to 160,000 on average. Cases are on the rise in all 50 states. Deaths are averaging more than 1,155 per day, the highest such figure in months.
The surge is not limited to one area of the country. Governors and mayors from coast to coast have begrudgingly implemented increasingly strict guidance on social distancing, and the impacts are being felt across all sectors of the public sphere.
New York, home to the nation’s largest public school system, will halt in-person learning Thursday, sending more than 1 million children into all-online classes at least through Thanksgiving, the Democratic mayor said at a news conference Wednesday.
Texas is rushing thousands of additional medical staff to overworked hospitals as the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients statewide accelerates toward 8,000 for the first time since a deadly summer outbreak.
Kansas hospitals are converting spaces such as chapels and cafeterias for use by COVID-19 patients, said Cindy Samuelson, spokeswoman for the Kansas Hospital Association.
In Florida, five mayors have expressed concern about the rising number of coronavirus cases in the state, and are urging Gov. Ron DeSantis to change his approach to the pandemic.
The mayors of Miami Beach, Hialeah, Miami Shores Village, Sunrise and St. Petersburg called Wednesday for consistency in statewide regulations, implementation of a mask mandate and restoration of state testing sites to full capacity.
The alarming number of deaths come as two pharmaceutical companies — Moderna and Pfizer — have announced promising results from their respective COVID-19 vaccines.
The National Institutes of Health helped create the vaccine Moderna is manufacturing, and NIH's director, Dr. Francis Collins, said the two companies' parallel results give scientists "a lot of confidence that we're on the path towards having effective vaccines.”
But “we're also at this really dark time,” he warned, saying people can't let down their guard during the months it will take for doses of any vaccines cleared by the FDA to start reaching a large share of the population.
And with the Thanksgiving holiday quickly approaching, experts are sure the holiday will further increase the surge in cases as Americans travel to celebrate with friends and family. The CDC recommends small or virtual Thanksgiving gatherings to mitigate the spread of the virus, but many local politicians are taking their guidance a step further.
“We don’t really want to see mamaw at Thanksgiving and bury her by Christmas,” said Dr. Mark Horne, president of the Mississippi State Medical Association. “It’s going to happen. You’re going to say ‘Hi’ at Thanksgiving, ‘It was so great to see you,’ and you’re going to either be visiting by FaceTime in the ICU or planning a small funeral before Christmas.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.