Health experts are warning that daily deaths from COVID-19 in the United States could double to 4,000 within the next ten days due to the impact of the colder weather and Thanksgiving travel.
They caution that despite the prospect of a vaccine, the country’s outbreak is far from over and could be ’rounding the corner into a calamity’ after hitting a record 90,000 hospitalizations on Thursday.
It comes as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, says that Christmas and the New Year won’t be any different to Thanksgiving, as he projected rising coronavirus cases throughout December.
The US hit over 13 million infections on Black Friday as 205,000 new cases were recorded, likely consisting of some Thanksgiving figures when 20 states did not report any data.
It marked the country’s 25th consecutive day with more than 100,000 new cases.
There have been more than 264,000 deaths in total, with five states setting daily death records this week and 23 states reporting higher case counts than last week.
The US reported less than 1,000 daily deaths only twice in the last week, while the two days prior to Thanksgiving each saw more than 2,000 American deaths.
Dr. Anthony Fauci has warned that Christmas and the New Year will need to have muted celebrations due to the threat of coronavirus spread at family gatherings. Pictured, nurses celebrate Thanksgiving in Houston, Texas
Dr. Fauci, pictured, warns that the holiday season will be difficult for Americans as he predicts rising COVID-19 cases
The United States hit a new record of 90,000 hospitalizations on Thursday
Experts believe these figures could climb even further as they warn Americans to ‘hunker down’ for a difficult winter.
Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and a visiting professor at George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, told CNN Friday that the country is far from rounding a corner.
‘We cannot let our guard down,’ she said. ‘The vaccines will make a big difference in the spring and the summer; they’re not going to make a difference right now.
‘If anything, we are rounding the corner into a calamity. We’re soon going to exceed well more than 2,000 deaths, maybe 3,000, 4,000 deaths every single day here in the US.’
This estimation was backed by Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine at George Washington University, who claimed the daily death toll will double within ten days.
Dr. Fauci has also warned of further deaths as he cautioned of a tough holiday season.
‘If the surge takes a turn of continuing to go up and you have the sustained greater than 100,000 infections a day and 1,300 deaths per day and the count keeps going up and up … I don’t see it being any different during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays than during Thanksgiving,’ he told USA Today.
Fauci said that the current daily figures are so high that the country is left vulnerable if there is any surge in cases, as he predicts will happen throughout December and into the New Year.
He added that he and his family would be preparing for the remaining holidays in the same way as Thanksgiving, where his three daughters appeared via video chat while he and his wife enjoyed dinner by themselves.
‘For my own family, I’m saying we had a really great Thanksgiving and Christmas last year,’ he said.
‘We’re looking forward to a really great Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2021. Let’s now make the best of the situation and show our love and affection for people by keeping them safe.
‘Given the cold weather and given the fact that these types of celebrations – as wonderful and beautiful and traditional as they are – are fundamentally indoor things with people who will be singing and laughing and eating and drinking… you’ve just got to be careful,’ he added.
Fauci had previously warned that a normal Christmas would be an impossibility this year, telling CNN’s Jake Tapper ‘it’s not going to be a light switch’ if a vaccine is approved.
‘We’re not going to turn it on and off… It’s going to be a gradual accrual of more normality as the weeks and the months go by,’ he cautioned.
The Centers for Disease Control had urged Americans to remain at home this Thanksgiving, stating on its website that ‘gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu’ despite the loneliness and stress of the pandemic.
The CDC’s latest forecast is predicting a total of 294,000 to 321,000 COVID-19 deaths by December 19. In that week alone, there is forecast to be up 21,000 deaths reported. The agency creates its forecast using predictions from 36 modeling groups
With cases, hospitalizations and deaths already skyrocketing across the US, health officials are warning the worst is yet to come given the true impact of Thanksgiving travel and gatherings won’t be seen for a few weeks like with other holidays
Millions of Americans ignored the warnings, however, with more than three million air passengers being screened by the TSA over the Friday, Saturday and Sunday before Thanksgiving.
There were 1,070,967 more travelers screened through TSA security on the day before Thanksgiving, the single highest volume of passengers since March 16 as the pandemic began.
This Sunday is expected to be even higher as travelers return home.
The increase in travel, and the impact of Black Friday shopping, is predicted to lead to a surge in cases in the coming days and weeks with Dr. Reiner branding Thanksgiving as ‘potentially the mother of all superspreader events’.
Those who did travel are urged to quarantine ‘for at least seven days and then get tested’ once they return.
‘If you are unable to get a test because testing remains so limited, you should quarantine for 14 days. And I mean a full quarantine, don’t go to work, don’t go to school, keep safe,’ warned Dr. Wen.
To mitigate the Thanksgiving and winter COVID-19 wave, more than 20 states have issued new restrictions, including mask mandates and limiting capacity of bars, restaurants and houses of worship.
The increase in travel, and the impact of Black Friday shopping, is predicted to lead to a surge in cases in the coming days and weeks. Pictured, Black Friday shoppers wear masks as they line up in New York on Friday morning
Millions of Americans ignored the advice from the CDC and traveled for Thanksgiving, with three million being screened by the TSA the weekend before. Pictured, passengers arrive at San Francisco International Airport on Wednesday
On Friday, Los Angeles County announced a new stay-home order Friday as coronavirus cases surged out of control in the nation´s most populous county.
While it stopped short of a full lockdown, the order banned most gatherings for three weeks and advises residents to stay home ‘as much as possible’ and to wear a face covering when they go out.
And in New Mexico, the state’s reset order, which placed it into a two-week lockdown, will now shift to a county by county basis Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Friday.
She said that this would enable ‘counties, and the businesses and nonprofits within their borders to operate with fewer restrictions when they slow the spread of the virus and drive down test positivity rates’.
However, Jodie Guest, professor and vice chair of the department of epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, says that the lockdowns and curfews being implemented now are too little too late and will not do enough to combat the spread before the holidays.
‘Everything we do has implications four to six weeks out,’ she said.
‘These prevention measures will keep people alive for the holidays, but I don’t think they’re a license to go have Christmas and Hanukkah parties that way we have in previous years.’
Currently, Americans are dying from the disease at a rate of around 65 an hour but the rates of infection are likely to worsen as people who mingled with friends and relatives over Thanksgiving gradually get sick, health experts say.
Hospitalizations already reached a record high of 90,481 on Thursday according to the COVID Tracking Project, although had dipped again to 89,834 by Friday.
The number of hospitalizations is still double what it was a month ago.
‘This is the reality we face when COVID-19 can spread unchecked – ICUs at capacity, not enough health care workers available,’ wrote Gov. Grisham in a tweet on Friday.
As of Friday, the seven-day rolling average of new daily cases in the US had risen to 165,724 and the rolling death average to 1,477 a day.
Experts are concerned that the limited testing available over Thanksgiving will see a dip in these average cases, potentially leading Americans to believe that there is no danger of the virus spreading at family gatherings.
‘I just hope that people don’t misinterpret the numbers and think that there wasn’t a major surge as a result of Thanksgiving, and then end up making Christmas and Hanukkah and other travel plans,’ Dr. Wen told the Associated Press.
According to some experts, only a fourth of the real number of COVID-19 cases in the country are even being reported.
Ali Mokdad, professor of health metrics sciences at the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluations, told USA Today that mild forms of the virus are still going undetected because testing is not readily available to everyone.
‘We should prevent getting COVID-19 especially at this time when we’re about to get a vaccine rolling out,’ Mokdad said. ‘We need to be extra careful these upcoming extra couple of weeks in order to avoid pain and suffering.’
The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluations recently estimated there are about twice as many cases as reported.
As it stands, they project more than 450,000 daily cases by December 25 if trends continue.