The US has careened past 11 million recorded cases of the coronavirus, adding 1 million new cases in just the past week as the country faces an alarming acceleration in spread.
According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the US hit the 11 million mark on Sunday afternoon after ticking over 10 million on Monday, Nov 9. Since then, there has been an average of 150,000 new cases a day.
There are roughly 70,000 people in US hospitals being treated for severe cases of COVID-19 — more than ever before. In the coming days, the country is also set to officially record a quarter of a million dead.
Healthcare providers and experts have been desperately sounding the alarm about the third wave of the pandemic, as cases surge in every state in the US. Some 38 states reported more than 1,000 new cases on Saturday, according to the Atlantic’s COVID-19 Tracking Project. Cases are typically lower over the weekend and are expected to rise during the week.
Governors across the country of different political stripes have been taking new action this week in response to the surge, hoping to prevent hospitals from getting overwhelmed as Thanksgiving nears.
In Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee on Sunday announced broad new restrictions for the next four weeks, including shutting down indoor service at restaurants and bars, gyms, movie theaters, and museums. The state is also prohibiting indoor gatherings of people from separate households, unless they have quarantined for at least a week and received a negative COVID-19 test.
“Today, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, is the most dangerous public health day in the last 100 years of our state’s history,” Inslee said at a press conference Sunday. “A pandemic is raging in our state. Left unchecked, it will assuredly result in grossly overburdened hospitals and morgues; and keep people from obtaining routine but necessary medical treatment for non-COVID conditions.”
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also ordered three weeks of new restrictions during a press conference Sunday, including halting in-person classes for high schools and colleges, prohibiting indoor service at bars and restaurants, and shuttering entertainment venues including theaters, stadiums, and bowling alleys. The order also limits indoor gatherings to 10 people from no more than two households.
On Friday, Washington, Oregon, and California all issued travel advisories, recommending those who travel out of state quarantine for 14 days after returning. North Dakota’s Republican governor also issued a mask mandate for the first time in his state.
While cases have risen sharply, hospitalizations and deaths have also been creeping up: Cities in states including Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Mississippi, and Texas have announced they have no more ICU beds available.
Still, there is typically a 12-day lag between rising cases and rising hospitalizations, meaning the full effects of the 1 million new cases recorded this week won’t be felt in hospitals for several days.
Cases have risen through the fall as colder weather drives more people indoors, where there is a higher risk of breathing in the virus via tiny water droplets called aerosols that linger in the air. Social distancing measures that many Americans abided by in the spring and summer have fallen by the wayside for some as the pandemic drags on into its eighth month.
The likely prospect that people will gather in groups for Thanksgiving and Christmas also has experts worried.
“We know we’re going to get cases after Thanksgiving,” Amesh Adalja, infectious diseases physician and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told BuzzFeed News. “It’s just a question of trying to keep them as minimal as possible.”
Though it leads the world by far in the number of people who have had or died from COVID-19, the United States is far from the only country struggling to keep the virus in check.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed Sunday that he would be following protocols and isolating after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Johnson previously tested positive for the coronavirus in March and was hospitalized in the intensive care unit.
European countries including France and Germany have also reentered lockdown in recent weeks as cases surge there.