The US was hit with a record number of new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations on Thanksgiving Day after millions of people ignored warnings not to travel — marking the beginning of a potentially treacherous holiday season, according to health officials.
There were at least 110,611 new infections Thursday — the 24th consecutive day cases soared above 100,000 — as hospitals warned they were almost at capacity, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
A total of 90,481 Americans were hospitalized on Turkey Day and 1,232 new deaths were reported, bringing the nation’s death toll to 263,454 — by far the largest in the world, The Guardian reports. Thanksgiving also marked the 17th consecutive day that a new record was set for the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19.
The sky-high number of infections could cause an even worse surge in the weeks leading up to Christmas, with the death toll forecast to rise as high as 321,000 in the next month, the outlet reported, citing health experts.
“Infections that are sustained today are going to show up in three weeks and are going to show up in deaths over Christmas and New Year’s and are going to spread in every state,” Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician at Brown University, told CNN on Thursday.
“I don’t mean to be scary but … today can change the course of COVID for our country for the rest of the year.”
Dr. William Schaffner, professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University, added that the nation should expect “surge upon a surge” over the next two weeks.
The hardest-hit states include North and South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and New Mexico — all of which saw between 102 and 155 cases per 100,000 people in the past week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On Wednesday, more than a million people walked through airport checkpoints, according to TSA data, despite the CDC urging people not to travel for Thanksgiving.
Last week, the country’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warned that Thanksgiving could mark the beginning of a dangerous 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,” he told USA Today.
“I don’t see it being any different during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays than during Thanksgiving.”