A record surge of coronavirus cases in the US is pushing hospitals to the brink of capacity and killing up to 1,000 people a day, the latest figures show, with much of the country’s attention focused on Tuesday’s presidential election.
The US broke its single-day record for new coronavirus infections on Thursday, reporting at least 91,248 new cases, as 17 states reported their highest daily number of hospitalised 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 hospitalised Covid-19 patients has risen over 50% 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 Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, 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 governor Gary Herbert said on Twitter, echoing officials in other states and public health experts.
Utah was among 14 states to report record increases in deaths this month and among 30 states to report record increases in cases.
The US has recorded over 229,000 deaths and nearly 9mn 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, Rhode Island.
“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 said in an interview.
Meanwhile Donald Trump and his son, Don Jr, appear intent on publicly disputing the lethality of the outbreak at repeated opportunities.
Don Jr sat for an interview with Fox News during which he called critics of the Trump administration’s approach to the pandemic “truly morons” and said that deaths from Covid-19 in America right now are “almost nothing”.
Meanwhile, having said at a rally last weekend that “you don’t see death” at this stage of the pandemic in the US, Donald Trump reiterated in a tweet yesterday morning that deaths are “way down” in the US, mass testing is exaggerating the numbers of infections and hospitals are coping.
On Fox News, Don Jr said: “If you look at, I put it on my Instagram, I went through the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) data because I kept hearing about the new infections, (but) why aren’t they talking about deaths? Oh, oh, because the number is almost nothing, because we have gotten control of this thing.”
Biden and fellow Democrats in Congress have criticised the president for his handling of the health crisis.
In the House of Representatives, Democrats released a report yesterday condemning the Trump administration’s pandemic response as being “among the worst failures of leadership in American history.”
The failures had forced at least 6mn 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 US 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 $4bn of potential fraud in programmes 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.
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