The US has set a new record for average daily confirmed Covid-19 cases, with surging infections and hospitalizations as the country remains on edge waiting for a winner to be declared in the presidential race.
Daily new coronavirus cases in America have increased 45% over the past two weeks to a record seven-day average of 86,352, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Deaths are also on the rise, up 15% to an average of 846 deaths every day.
There were more than 91,000 new cases recorded on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins. The university counted nearly 99,000 US cases on 30 October.
The grim statistics underscore the high stakes of the election, which remained too close to call a full day after the polls closed. Joe Biden has said he is on course for victory while Donald Trump, who has continued to spread misinformation about the pandemic and downplay the threat of virus, has threatened election lawsuits and promoted falsehoods about the counting process.
More than 232,000 people have died from Covid in the US, and total confirmed cases have surpassed 9 million. Those are the highest totals in the world, and new infections are increasing in nearly every state.
The new record comes days after America’s top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, warned that the US should prepare for a “whole lot of hurt”, predicting a winter of 100,000 or more cases each day and a rising death toll. The Covid Tracking Project, which keeps a tally separate from Johns Hopkins university, reported late Wednesday that the US met Fauci’s predictions, with 103,000 cases, the highest daily count to date, and a daily death toll of 1,116. The group says 52,000 people are currently hospitalized with Covid.
Public health experts have increasingly sounded the alarm about worsening Covid spread int he weeks prior to the election, especially in the midwest.
The US handling of the pandemic and predictions for a difficult winter became a major issue in the race between the president and the former vice-president. As early voting began, Trump falsely asserted that one of his achievements was “ending” the pandemic, a brazen statement made the same week that broke records for new infections. Despite the continuing bleak death toll each day, his son, Donald Trump Jr, falsely claimed in a Fox interview that deaths were “almost nothing”.
Biden has pledged to keep Fauci in position and has promised to roll out a new nationwide plan to fight coronavirus if elected, though Trump would remain in charge until his inauguration in January.
In a recent interview that angered Trump, Fauci told the Washington Post, “It’s not a good situation. All the stars are aligned in the wrong place as you go into the fall and winter season, with people congregating at home indoors. You could not possibly be positioned more poorly.”
Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, argued this week that if most Americans wear face coverings, it could save up to 130,000 lives by March. But if people continue not to wear masks and practice social distancing, the death toll could reach 1 million by the end of February, he said. Trump has repeatedly mocked Biden for wearing a mask.