(CNN) — This year’s Thanksgiving comes at a critical point in the United States’ battle against COVID-19.
The pandemic is already wreaking havoc in many American communities and experts fear that traditional celebrations and gatherings will translate into an increase in cases over the current one within a few weeks.
Every day since November 3, more than 100,000 new infections have been reported. Every day for more than two weeks, the escalation in hospitalizations reached another national record. And every day, hundreds of Americans die from the virus, with a daily death toll of more than 2,100 on both Tuesday and Wednesday.
The devastating numbers show no signs of slowing down. One expert predicts that daily deaths will double in just a few days.
“When you look at the people who are hospitalized today, they were infected two weeks ago, maybe more. So it takes five to seven days to become symptomatic, “said Dr. Jonathan Reiner, professor of medicine at George Washington University. “Usually it takes another week to be sick enough to be hospitalized, so it’s two weeks minimum, and then it usually takes another week for people to succumb to the illness.”
“I expect the daily death rate to double in the next 10 days,” he said. “We will see about 4,000 deaths a day.”
More than 262,100 people have died in the United States since the start of the pandemic. A joint forecast released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) projects that nearly 60,000 more people could lose their lives in the next three and a half weeks.
‘We will see an increase in cases after another increase’
With the country mired in the fall of covid-19, local and state leaders made the last attempts throughout the week to get the warning to Americans: do not opt for traditional Thanksgiving celebrations this year or things could get worse.
Telephone alerts were sent in Pennsylvania and parts of Georgia urging residents to stay safe while on vacation. New Orleans officials sent residents a reminder to celebrate within their own home and to make the biggest celebrations virtual. In a final plea to Kansans, Gov. Laura Kelly said that following health regulations “will be more important than ever in the days ahead.” US Chief Health Officer Dr. Jerome Adams said the safest Thanksgiving this year includes only immediate household members.
Similar warnings have been received in the last week from officials in nearly every state. And experts have warned of what could happen in the coming weeks if Americans don’t follow the guidance.
“It’s some serious news here with all those people who travel and then at their destinations spend a lot of time indoors in a warm family relationship with extended families,” said Dr. William Schaffner, professor of infectious diseases at the University of California. Vanderbilt.
“The virus is going to attend some of those Thanksgiving dinners and I’m afraid it will spread. And then people will go home, some of them will get sick, it will spread further to their families and neighborhoods, “he added.
“In a week, more likely in two weeks, we will see an increase over another increase,” Schaffner said. “We are in a difficult moment.”
To prevent that from happening, the CDC urged Americans last week to avoid traveling on vacation. Many changed their plans, showed a new poll. But millions did not.
About 4.8 million people have boarded planes since the CDC warning, and more than 900,000 passed through security at the nation’s airports on Tuesday, the Transportation Security Administration said.
Covid hospitalization records for 16 days in a row
A sudden increase over the current one could cripple the many communities already struggling to respond to the spread of the virus.
Hospitals in some parts of the country are already filling up fast. Nearly 90,000 people are hospitalized across the United States, setting another record for the 16th day in a row, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
In Los Angeles County, where COVID-19 hospitalizations have soared by roughly 70% in the past two weeks, hospitals could face a shortage of hospital beds and intensive care units (ICUs) in the next few two to four weeks.
“What’s most limited in Los Angeles County public and private hospitals is staff availability,” said Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.
The county will be able to find flexible space within hospitals, using pre and postoperative space, unused wings, or the emergency department to house patients, but it will be more difficult to find trained staff.
In the meantime, the Mayo Clinic will bring in staff from other states, such as Arizona and Florida, as well as retirees with credentials to deal with capacity stretching during covid-19 surges in Minnesota, according to Dr. Andrew Badley, president of the el Mayo Clinic Covid-19 Research Working Group.
“These are really distressing times,” Badley told CNN on Wednesday. “Right now, at the Mayo Clinic, a day or two ago, we had around 1,400 of our staff that were out with either covid or covid restrictions.”
Washington state health officials said “the number of cases has exploded” and predicted that if current transmission of the disease continues at the same rate as earlier this month, daily hospital admissions could double by early December. .
“The situation is incredibly urgent and there is still time to change course before our hospitals are overwhelmed,” said State Health Secretary John Wiesman in a statement. “I know these are difficult and disappointing times for many, and I am very grateful to all who have made the decision to stay home with their immediate family for Thanksgiving tomorrow. When added together, every action we take to reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19 issues matters.
CNN’s Pete Muntean, Ben Tinker, Shelby at Erdman, and Naomi Thomas contributed to this report.