U.S. officials have reported more than 11 million total cases of coronavirus as of Sunday, as the country’s outbreaks lead to agonizing new levels of hospitalizations. Cases passed 10 million just a week ago, and more than 1 in 400 Americans have tested positive since.
The latest virus surge began accelerating across much of the country in mid-October. It took just over two weeks for the nation to go from 8 million cases to 9 million on Oct. 30; from 9 million to 10 million took only 10 days.
The country logged more than 159,100 new cases Saturday, the third-highest total of the pandemic, raising the new seven-day average to more than 145,000, with upward trends in 48 states and an 80% increase in added cases from the average two weeks ago.
Ten states set single-day case records Saturday; 29 states added more cases in the past week than in any other seven-day period, according to a New York Times database. At least two of the states that broke daily records Saturday — Maryland and New Jersey — had broken them again by late Sunday afternoon.
Deaths nationwide remain at lower levels than in spring’s peak, but they are rising rapidly. More than 1,200 new deaths were reported Saturday, pushing the seven-day average to more than 1,120 a day, a 38% increase from the average two weeks ago. Four states set new death records Saturday: Montana, Oklahoma, Wyoming and South Dakota.
Dr. Michael Osterholm, an adviser to President-elect Joe Biden, said the country was “in a very dangerous period,” calling it the most dangerous public health crisis since the 1918 influenza pandemic, which killed an estimated 50 million worldwide, including some 675,000 Americans.
“My worst fear is we will see what we saw happening in other countries, where people were dying on the streets,” he said on the NBC program “Meet the Press.” “The health care system is breaking, literally breaking.”
Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary of health and human services, called the situation “critical” on the ABC program “This Week.”
The pandemic continues to take a disproportionate toll on Americans of color, who have been hospitalized at rates roughly four times higher than non-Hispanic whites since the start of the epidemic.
Hispanic or Latino people have been hospitalized at the highest rate, 4.2 times the rate of whites, with non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native people hospitalized at 4.1 times the rate of whites and Blacks at 3.9 times the rate of whites, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The figures were tabulated through the week ending Nov. 7.
The higher hospitalization rates have been linked to higher infection rates, as nonwhite Americans are more likely to be essential workers with jobs in the food service industry or home health care, which cannot be carried out remotely and require interacting with the public. These jobs often don’t provide health insurance or paid time off, benefits that enable workers to stay home when sick.
Many people in these communities are also more likely to live in multigenerational households in densely populated communities, where infections spread quickly and easily.
In a speech Sunday criticizing President Donald Trump’s vaccine distribution plans, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said that the pandemic had revealed “the systemic discrimination in this nation.”
“That is the sad reality,” Cuomo said Sunday at Riverside Church in Manhattan. “And we must have the courage to face it and to admit it because you will never solve a problem that you are unwilling to admit.”