America’s coronavirus surge showed no sign of abating over the Thanksgiving holiday, as cases in the country surpassed 13 million on Friday.
Thursday marked the 24th consecutive day that the US reported more than 100,000 new Covid-19 cases and the 17th day straight that the number of patients in hospital with the virus has hit a new record.
There were 110,611 new cases on Thursday, Johns Hopkins University figures show, and 1,232 new deaths.
On Friday, the number of people in the US who have contracted the virus hit 13,047,202, the university’s coronavirus resource center showed.
And more than 264,624 people have died – by far the largest totals for any country in the world.
On Thanksgiving day there were 90,481 people hospitalized, according to the Covid Tracking Project. Meanwhile, medical centers warned they were nearing capacity.
With millions of Americans ignoring government recommendations not to travel for the holiday – over a million people passed through airport checkpoints on Wednesday alone, according to TSA data – health experts warned that infections and deaths will continue to soar in the coming weeks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts the total number of deaths could rise to as high as 321,000 in the next four weeks, according to its latest forecast, updated on Wednesday.
“I don’t mean to be scary but … today can change the course of Covid for our country for the rest of the year,” Dr Megan Ranney, an emergency physician at Brown University, told CNN on Thursday.
“Infections that are sustained today are going to show up in three weeks and are going to show up in deaths over Christmas and New Year’s and are going to spread in every state.”
Dr William Schaffner, professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University, warned of a “surge upon a surge” in the next couple of weeks, telling the broadcaster: “We’re in a for a tough time.”
Among the worst affected states are North and South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and New Mexico, which CDC maps show have all seen between 102.8 and 155 cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days.
Other states in this bracket are Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Utah.
Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, has warned that Thanksgiving could mark the start of a dark holiday season and that he expects Christmas and new year to continue in a similar vein.
“If the surge takes a turn of continuing to go up and you have the sustained greater than 100,000 infections a day and 1,300 deaths per day and the count keeps going up and up … I don’t see it being any different during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays than during Thanksgiving,” he told USA Today.
He said he probably plans to ditch any Christmas plans, like he did for Thanksgiving, which he spent with his wife away from their three daughters.