US tops 100,000 new Covid cases for second straight day

The US reported a record of more than 116,000 coronavirus cases on Thursday, a total pushed up by new single-day peaks for Illinois, Ohio and Indiana as the new outbreak continued to batter the Midwest.

Nationwide, the US tallied 116,255 new infections, according to Covid Tracking Project data. That shattered the previous record set just the day before of 103,000 infections. That was the first time the US reported more than 100,000 cases in a single day.

Over the past week, the US has confirmed about 650,600 cases, a record for a seven-day period and more than Germany’s overall total since the start of the pandemic.

Jay Powell, the Federal Reserve chairman, described the latest rise in coronavirus cases globally as “particularly concerning”. During a press conference held after the Fed held monetary policy steady, Mr Powell said that even without new lockdowns, economic activity could take a hit as consumers curtail spending, having only just started to return to bars, restaurants and hotels.

Despite the outbreak, exit polls from Tuesday’s presidential election showed that voters were more concerned about the economy than coronavirus, a fact that helped President Donald Trump outperform expectations against Joe Biden, his Democratic rival.

There were 17 states that reported record jumps in cases on Thursday, according to Financial Times analysis of Covid Tracking Project data, mostly from Midwestern and western states that have been at the forefront of a national surge in cases since October.

In the Midwest, Illinois reported almost 10,000 infections, while Ohio tallied nearly 5,000. Wisconsin’s health department revealed 5,922 new confirmed cases, just 13 short of its record on Wednesday.

Colorado and Utah reported single-day peaks of more than 2,800 new infections each, while Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island — all near the northeastern states that were hit hard early on in the pandemic — set daily records, albeit with 1,056 new cases between them.

Rising levels of coronavirus hospitalisations have accompanied the latest wave of cases, belying Mr Trump’s claim that the upward trend in cases was due to increased testing. There were 53,322 people in US hospitals with coronavirus on Thursday, a three-month high, with 17 states reporting a record level of such patients, the highest number of states since late April.

Top health officials worry that a surge in coronavirus cases through the winter could strain hospital resources, particularly in rural areas, potentially leading to a rise in fatality rates, which have generally been lower than when the outbreak began in the US earlier this year.

On Thursday, authorities attributed a further 1,124 deaths to coronavirus, up from 1,116 yesterday but lower than the 1,529 on Tuesday, which was the highest tally in nearly six months. The seven-day fatality average was 922 a day, the highest since late August.

Anthony Fauci, a senior official on the White House’s coronavirus task force, warned a Senate committee in June that the daily case rate in the US could rise above 100,000 a day if the pandemic was not contained and residents did not comply with social distancing guidelines recommended by medical experts. 

At the time, the US was averaging more than 40,000 infections a day. During the summer surge that primarily hit sunbelt states, the country’s seven-day average peaked at 66,700 a day. That same metric is now at nearly 93,000, a record.

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