The United States is on track to record one million new cases of COVID-19 in just two weeks – as more than 1,100 deaths are recorded in a day and reach levels not seen in two months.
The number of infections across the country was nearing a staggering four million cases on Thursday and more than 143,000 Americans have now died from COVID-19.
In the past week, the average number of daily cases has reached 66,000 and, based on that trajectory, cases will increase by one million by the first week of August.
Daily deaths surpassed 1,000 on Wednesday for the second time this week, while new cases reached 71,000.
There has been an uptick in deaths, on average, across the US since the beginning of July after hotspot states including Florida, Texas, Arizona and California saw explosions in cases and hospitalizations.
Texas on Wednesday set one-day records for increases in COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations in the state.
The state, which reported 197 deaths and 10,893 hospitalizations, has been one of the hardest hit by the resurgent coronavirus.
Meanwhile, California surpassed New York on Wednesday to have the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country. It is partly due to robust testing in a state with more than twice the population of New York.
The total number of infections in the most populous US state is now at 413,579 after adding a record 12,807 spike in new daily cases – the biggest single-day increase since the pandemic started.
New York currently has 408,181 total infections throughout the state.
New York has recorded by far the most deaths of any US state at more than 32,000 with California in fourth place with over 8,000 deaths.
If California were a country, it would rank fifth in the world for total coronavirus cases behind only the United States, Brazil, India and Russia.
Deaths have topped 1,000 twice this week across the United States, which hasn’t been seen since May.
Coronavirus deaths are now rising in 23 states and the country’s three most populous states, Florida, Texas and California, top the list of 44 states where cases are increasing.
The rising deaths and hospitalizations in Texas has forced one county to store bodies in refrigerated trucks and prompting a top health official there to call for new stay-at-home orders.
Hidalgo County, at the southern tip of the state on the US border with Mexico, has seen cases rise 60 percent in the last week, with deaths doubling to more than 360.
‘We’ve got to lasso this virus, this stallion, bring the numbers back down and get control of this thing,’ Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez said.
‘Because our hospitals – they’re war zones, they are really struggling right now.’
Cortez, a Democrat who serves as the top county official, issued a shelter-in-place order for residents. That mandate put him at odds with Republican Governor Greg Abbott, who maintains that local officials do not have the authority to make residents stay home.Crematoriums in the Hidalgo area have a wait list of two weeks, Cortez said, forcing the county to use five refrigerated trucks that can hold 50 bodies each.
Hidalgo’s top medical official, Dr. Ivan Melendez, partly blamed Abbott’s move to override local officials for the spike in coronavirus infections, which he said has jammed the local medical system at every level.
‘Do I think that a stay-at-home order is medically indicated at this point? Absolutely,’ Melendez said.
Meanwhile, laboratories across the US are buckling under a surge of coronavirus tests, creating long processing delays that experts say are undercutting the pandemic response.
With the tally of confirmed infections at nearly 4 million and new cases surging, the bottlenecks are creating problems for workers kept off the job while awaiting results, nursing homes struggling to keep the virus out and for the labs themselves as they deal with a crushing workload.
Some labs are taking weeks to return COVID-19 results, exacerbating fears that people without symptoms could be spreading the virus if they don’t isolate while they wait.
‘There’s been this obsession with, ‘How many tests are we doing per day?’ said Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ‘The question is how many tests are being done with results coming back within a day, where the individual tested is promptly isolated and their contacts are promptly warned.’
Frieden and other public health experts have called on states to publicly report testing turnaround times, calling it an essential metric to measure progress against the virus.