A record surge of coronavirus cases in the United States is pushing hospitals to the brink of capacity and killing up to 1,000 people a day, the latest figures show, as much of the country focuses on Tuesday’s presidential election.
The U.S. broke its single-day record for new coronavirus infections on Thursday, reporting at least 91,248 new cases, as 21 states reported their highest daily number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients since the pandemic started, according to a Reuters tally of publicly reported data.
More than 1,000 people died of the virus on Thursday, marking the third time in October that milestone has been passed in a single day. The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has risen over 50 per cent in October to 46,000, the highest since mid-August.
Among the hardest-hit states are those most hotly contested in the campaign between Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden, such as Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
The surge has revived some of the worst images of the devastating first wave of the virus in March, April and May, with people on ventilators dying alone in hospital isolation and medical staff physically and mentally exhausted.
“Our hospitals cannot keep up with Utah’s infection rate. You deserve to understand the dire situation we face,” Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said on Twitter, echoing a similar refrain from other state and local officials and public health experts.
Herbert separately criticized demonstrators who went to the home of state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn this week.
Dunn said her personal information was shared online.
“It’s taken a really big toll on my family and myself,” Dunn said when asked about the protest during the governor’s weekly COVID-19 briefing. “I think it’s really unfortunate we live in a state where people feel that it is OK to harass civil servants.”
‘An American fiasco’: Democrats take aim
Utah was among 14 states to report record increases in deaths this month and among 30 states to report record increases in cases. The United States has recorded over 229,000 deaths and nearly nine million cases, both the highest single-country totals in the global pandemic.
“We are having some of the largest outbreaks that we’ve had during the entire pandemic. And nine, 10 months into this pandemic, we are still largely not quite prepared,” said Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health in Providence, R.I.
“We don’t have the kind of testing that we need. There are a lot of problems with large outbreaks happening in many, many different parts of the country. And of course, we’re going into the fall and winter, which will, of course, make things very, very difficult,” Jha told Reuters in an interview.
The per-capita case numbers in the upper Midwest are extremely high. <a href=”https://t.co/QzJ0LCLmBx”>pic.twitter.com/QzJ0LCLmBx</a>
Trump has repeatedly downplayed the virus, saying for weeks that the country is “rounding the turn,” even as new cases and hospitalizations soar. He maintained his upbeat tone in a tweet on Friday, saying the country is doing much better than Europe in confronting the pandemic.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats released a report on Friday condemning the Trump administration’s pandemic response as being “among the worst failures of leadership in American history.” The failures had forced at least 6 million Americans into poverty and left millions more jobless, it said.
“The virus is a global scourge, but it has been an American fiasco, killing more people in the United States than in any other country,” said the 71-page interim report by Democratic staff of the House select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis, which was created in April.
Based on dozens of Democratic-led probes conducted during the panel’s first six months, the report said investigators identified more than 60 instances in which Trump administration officials overruled or sidelined top scientists to advance the president’s political interests.
The subcommittee found over $4 billion US of potential fraud in programs to help struggling small businesses and accused the administration of directing funding for critical supplies to companies that had political connections or lacked experience, often without competition.
“The administration’s response to this economic crisis has benefited larger companies and wealthy Americans, while leaving behind many disadvantaged communities and struggling small businesses,” the report said.
Read the Democratic subcommittee report:
Biden and fellow Democrats in Congress have criticized the president for his handling of the health crisis.
After his hospitalization with COVID-19 in early October, Trump resumed the large campaign rallies that draw thousands of supporters packed together, many not wearing masks. The Trump campaign says the rallies are safe and that masks and social distancing are encouraged.
One of the country’s most conservative business groups, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, on Thursday urged member companies and local community leaders to step up efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus with mask mandates and other measures.