The US reported more than 3,000 coronavirus deaths in a single day on Wednesday for the first time, as fatalities caught up with a record surge in cases and hospitalisations across the country over the past month.
States attributed a further 3,054 deaths to coronavirus, according to Covid Tracking Project data on Wednesday, a tally that surpasses the overall death toll of 2,977 fatalities from the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
The latest daily figure eclipsed the 2,752 deaths recorded on May 7, when states in the US north-east including New York and New Jersey were hardest hit during the early stages of the pandemic. The national death toll now stands at 280,454, the highest in the world by far.
Fatalities tend to lag behind cases and hospitalisations, and the latter two metrics have repeatedly set new peaks in recent weeks. Those trends have prompted pleas from public health officials for Americans to stay at home during the holiday season and state leaders to reimpose curbs on businesses and social gatherings.
Hospitalisations hit a record 106,688 on Wednesday, having surpassed its previous peak from the summer a month ago. States reported 209,822 new coronavirus cases, below the single-day record of 224,831 set last Friday, and bringing the number of infections confirmed over the past week to 1.43m, according to a Financial Times analysis of Covid Tracking Project data.
The latest figures came on the eve of a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel meeting that will discuss whether to recommend Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use authorisation in the US.
Thanks to better treatments and more knowledge about coronavirus, fatality rates are generally lower than during the initial stages of the pandemic. But unlike during the spring and summer when specific regions of the US were being hit, the latest surge is affecting broad parts of the country at the same time, which could overwhelm hospital resources and, ultimately, the ability of healthcare workers to save lives.
Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf on Wednesday revealed he had tested positive for Covid-19, prompting him to reiterate his call for residents to wear masks, stay at home as much as possible and practice physical distancing.
The governor’s announcement came just hours after the state health department attributed a further 220 deaths to coronavirus, the biggest single-day tally since May. Less than a week ago Mr Wolf warned hospitals in Pennsylvania could run out of intensive care unit beds by the middle of December.
Texas reported the biggest daily death toll among US states on Wednesday, with the 273 fatalities marking the biggest one-day tally since mid-August. Illinois had a further 229 deaths, among its biggest on record and down from the high of 266 on Wednesday last week.
California revealed a further 196 deaths, slightly below Saturday’s four-month-high of 209. However, the most populous US state reported a record 30,851 new coronavirus infections and a new high for hospitalisations of 11,965 patients.
Governor Gavin Newsom last week announced stay-at-home orders would be imposed upon broad regions within the state if their intensive care unit beds were 85 per cent full.