US sets new single-day COVID case record as hospitals struggle

Several US states put measures in place to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed amid a surge in COVID-19 infections.

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a new stay-at-home order that will be triggered when a region reaches 85 percent of its ICU bed capacity [Richard Vogel/AP]

The United States recorded a new single-day record for COVID-19 cases on Friday, as a countrywide surge in infections has forced several states to reimpose restrictions and pushed healthcare networks to the brink.

The US recorded 227,885 new cases on Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University, and 2,011 total deaths linked to the novel coronavirus.

To date, more than 14.5 million infections have been confirmed in the country, with more than 280,000 deaths.

The latest surge, which comes as the US enters its colder months, has stressed the healthcare system in several states.

Officials have warned that increased travelling and gathering during the Thanksgiving holiday on November 26 likely added to the spike.

On Friday, health officials in six San Francisco Bay area counties issued stay-at-home orders to try to stem the spread of the virus.

They were the first counties to do so since California Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday said such directives must be ordered when area hospitals reach 85 per cent capacity in their intensive care units.

The counties that enacted the stay-at-home order had not yet reached that threshold, but said that their healthcare systems would already be overwhelmed by the time they did.

National Guard deployed

Meanwhile, in Boise, Idaho, members of the state’s National Guard, who have been trained on mobile testing support, facility decontamination, and coronavirus screening, have been deployed to support medical workers.

That comes as the state, where many have been resistant to COVID-19 public health precautions, passed more than 100,000 confirmed infections and 1,000 deaths.

In Tennessee, Governor Bill Lee on Friday also authorised medically trained National Guard soldiers to fill nursing roles, drive ambulances and perform coronavirus testing for hospitals that are overstretched with COVID-19 patients.

The state said 2,485 people are currently hospitalised with COVID-19, with only 14 percent of floor beds and 8 percent of ICU beds still available.

In Arizona, where Republican Governor Doug Ducey has not ordered a statewide mask mandate or curfews, health officials said on Twitter on Saturday that people should wear masks “around anyone who isn’t a member of your household, even those you know and trust”.

The directive comes as the state reported 6,799 COVID-19 cases, the second-highest daily increase since the start of the pandemic. Hospitalisations for coronavirus rose to 2,931 in the state on Friday, five times as many since early October.

100-day mask request

Meanwhile, in an interview with CNN on Thursday, President-elect Joe Biden said he plans to ask the public to wear masks for 100 days after he takes office on January 20, but came up short of calling for a politically fraught nationwide mask mandate.

Biden also said that he would take a coronavirus vaccine when it is deemed safe by health officials “to communicate to the American people that it’s safe”.

Two vaccines are currently pending emergency approval from the Food and Drug and Administration (FDA) and could begin to be distributed by mid-December, according to authorities.

The first doses will likely go to front-line and essential workers and nursing home residents.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies