Daily cases were dipping as recently as September, as the nation was bouncing back from a summer surge.
But infections roared back in a way not recorded before.
Wednesday brought the United States’ highest one-day infection total (above 143,000) and seven-day average for new daily infections (more than 127,000) on record, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
That average is more than 3.5 times higher than it was on September 12, when it was at a post-summer surge low of 34,198.
And it’s well above the summer’s highest seven-day average, which was around 67,100 on July 22.
But with colder weather potentially driving risky gatherings indoors, and no vaccine available this minute, experts warn daily infections have room to grow.
“It will not surprise me if in the next weeks we see over 200,000 new cases a day,” Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told CNN on Monday.
Some health experts have said hospitalizations can be a truer measure of the pandemic’s severity — though rising cases are a warning sign, since a patient’s hospitalization can come well after diagnosis.
The country’s test positivity rate averaged 8.7% over seven days as of early Thursday, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
That’s above a summer’s highest seven-day average of about 7.9% in mid-July.
More Covid-19 patients are reported to be in US hospitals now than at any previous point in the pandemic.
About 65,300 coronavirus patients were in those facilities Wednesday, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
That’s more than double the number from September 20, when the country was at post-summer-surge low of 28,608.
And it’s beyond the summer peak of 59,718 on July 23, and the spring peak of 59,940 on April 15.
“These hospitalization numbers prove that the current surge of Covid-19 cases is not merely the result of increased screening of asymptomatic people. Rather, the cases we’re detecting are a leading indicator that many people are seriously ill,” the post reads.
Seventeen states reported records for Covid-19 hospitalizations on Tuesday: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Wyoming, the tracking project said.
The hospitalization numbers likely have become more accurate over time — Florida didn’t report its hospitalizations until July 10, the COVID Tracking Project notes.
The country’s recent daily Covid-19 death tallies aren’t in record territory, but they are shooting upward.
The average number of deaths per day, across a week, rose above 1,000 this week for the first time since the summer.
That average was above 1,130 on Wednesday — the highest since August 1, Johns Hopkins data show.
Slightly more than 2,000 deaths were reported on Wednesday alone. The tally would reflect a new one-day high since May, though it may be skewed by an outsized number from Georgia that could include backlogged deaths.
That would recall the tallies seen early in the pandemic, when 2,000+ deaths were reported daily for a time in April. The highest daily average across a week was 2,241, on April 24.
But as hospitalizations break records, daily death rates could climb further.