The US reported a record 3,157 COVID-19 deaths and 100,226 hospitalisations on Wednesday, as a top health official warned of a bleak winter ahead as the country continues to see nationwide surges of new infections and hospitalisations. Wednesday's death toll is an increase of about 20 per cent from the previous grim record of 2,603 set on April 15. Over the course of the pandemic, 273,799 people in the US have died of the virus and more than 13.9 million have been infected, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The spike in coronavirus deaths came on the same day the number of people hospitalised broke the 100,000-mark, according to the Covid Tracking Project. The number of hospitalisations had been steadily growing over the course of last month, setting records nearly every day since November 10, and experts worry health care systems will soon feel the strain, CNN reported.
"The reality is that December, January and February are going to be rough times," the Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Robert Redfield said. "I actually believe they're going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation," he said. Redfield said the current surge in cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is worse than previous ones, noting the geographic scope and steeper trajectory of infection rates and deaths, as the US is recording roughly 2,000 deaths from the virus daily.
Redfield also warned of the strain on hospitals across the country, which are running low on beds and overworked staff. The country's 911 emergency call system is "at a breaking point," the American Ambulance Association, which represents all of the nation's ambulance services, said in a letter on Wednesday.
"Without additional relief, it seems likely to break, even as we enter the third surge of the virus in the Mid-West and West," the letter said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention top official said things are not likely to look better for hospitals any time soon.
"The reality is December and January and February are going to be rough times. I actually believe they're going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation, largely because of the stress that's going to be put on our health care system," said Dr. Robert Redfield. States across the US are racing to catch up with the rising number of coronavirus hospitalisations.
The city of Los Angeles has reacted to an unprecedented surge there by ordering residents to stay at home. If the coronavirus continues to spread at its current, unprecedented rate, Los Angeles will run out of hospital beds by Christmas, Mayor Eric Garcetti warned in a news conference on Wednesday, calling on residents to "hunker down" and "cancel everything" to help stop the spread of the virus.
In the Southwest region of Kansas, Governor Laura Kelly said there are no staffed ICU beds available. "While case numbers may have dipped slightly, the strain on our hospitals and health care workers has not," she said.
Coronavirus hospitalisations in Nevada have been climbing daily since November, with few exceptions, and were at a peak on Wednesday with 1,652 people hospitalised. Millions of Americans traveled for the Thanksgiving holiday last week, despite advice from health experts against flying and gathering in large groups indoors.
On Wednesday, the CDC said Americans should quarantine for 10 days after potential exposure to the virus, shortening the previous guideline of a 14-day quarantine. The US, worst-hit country in the world, has recorded more than 273,000 deaths and over 13.9 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus this year, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.