Hospitals across the United States already have a higher load of Covid patients than ever before and the country’s outbreak is primed to set even more grim records this week.
The U.S. reported more than 175,600 new cases of the virus and more than 1,100 deaths caused by Covid-19 on Sunday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. But the data historically tends to come in lower at the end of the weekend and the beginning of the week.
Over the past seven days, the U.S. has reported a record-high average of more than 196,200 cases of the virus, up more than 20% compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins data. If current trends hold, that figure will likely top 200,000 this week.
The U.S. is rapidly approaching a record-high level in the country’s seven-day average of daily Covid deaths, as well, driven by a sharp uptick in reported fatalities in recent weeks. An average of roughly 2,200 daily new deaths is being reported as of Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins data, just shy of the record 2,241 weekly average set in late April. Last week, the country reported a single-day record of 2,879 deaths caused by Covid-19, also surpassing April peaks.
The harrowing figures come as officials in California instituted some of the most sweeping restrictions seen so far this fall. Last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state would impose a stay-at-home order on regions if their hospitals’ available capacity of intensive-care units fell below 15%.
And officials in the San Francisco-Bay Area on Friday preempted the state order by issuing a stay-at-home order even before their hospitals approached the dire situation outlined by the governor.
“If you’re not working to stay ahead of this virus, you’re falling far, far behind and very quickly,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said Friday during a press briefing. “If we wait, we are just delaying the inevitable. If we wait one or two more weeks to have these restrictions placed on us, it will just mean our numbers will be higher and harder to bring down.”
Last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a White House coronavirus advisor and chief medical advisor to President-elect Joe Biden, said parts of the country could see more temporary restrictions like those in California.
“The unimaginable thing, that no one wants to see happen, that when you have such a strain on the beds, and on the personnel, the health care personnel, that you are going to deprive people from the kind of care they need… We don’t want to go there.,” Fauci told CNN on Friday. “If it requires doing more drastic things, or draconian things, like maybe some temporary shutdowns in some areas, I think some areas of the country are thinking about that.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week suggested that if hospital capacity becomes a crisis, the state might implement a regional New York Pause, which “is basically a stop.” However, he urged hospitals to implement a number of emergency measures to increase capacity before such restrictions would become necessary.
Dr. Celine Gounder, a member of Biden’s Covid-19 advisory board, said Monday that the nationwide outbreak will likely continue to grow more severe over “the next couple of weeks.” She added that health workers on the frontline are suffering from burnout after months of treating Covid-19 patients.
“Sadly, hospitals are overrun. I think that is going to get worse, frankly, over the next couple of weeks,” she said on CBS. “And I think, unfortunately, some Americans may continue not to follow the public health guidance that we had offered before Thanksgiving and that may lead to further transmission over the upcoming holidays.”