The US recorded its highest level of deaths in a single day from the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday, just two weeks after the Thanksgiving holiday period when health experts warned Americans not to travel or gather.
According to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, 3,124 deaths were recorded, with an additional 221,276 cases identified. It is the first time the US has recorded more than 3,000 deaths in a single day.
The grim toll comes at a time when the US healthcare system is under considerable pressure. Hospitalisations from Covid were also at a record on Wednesday, at 106,000.
Some states including California, Texas and Rhode Island have been setting up field hospitals in order to cope with the potential overflow patients as intensive care units (ICU) across the country fill up. The intense demand is being felt nationwide – in El Paso last week just 13 of the 400 ICU beds were unoccupied. Albuquerque had none, while in North Dakota, Fargo had just three.
Federal data analysed by the New York Times earlier this week showed that more than one-third of Americans live in areas where hospitals are running critically short of ICU beds.
Fresno County’s Interim Public Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra told CNN that there was zero ICU capacity on Tuesday: “Whenever the ICUs get full, it’s really hard to move patients through the emergency department. It’s really hard for us to provide efficient services.”
“I know that those who aren’t in the medical field may not understand or quite grasp just how dire the situation is, but all the things you’re hearing about – how impacted our hospitals are, about how dire the situation with our ICUs is – it’s absolutely true. And that really is the reason that we want everyone to stay home as much as possible.”
Last week a new record had been set in the US at 2,804, and this was considered a milestone, as it broke the number recorded in the previous April peak of the pandemic.
At the time, Dr Robert Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said “The reality is December and January and February are going to be rough times. I actually believe they are going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation.”