(CNN) — The United States is experiencing the most dangerous public health crisis since the 1918 influenza pandemic, and health experts say the coronavirus does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon with the arrival of the Christmas season.
The United States reported 2,046 deaths Wednesday, the highest daily death toll from coronavirus the country has reported since early May, data from Johns Hopkins University shows.
The country also hit a new record for daily hospitalization, with 89,954 people currently hospitalized for covid-19, according to the Covid Tracking Project. This is the 16th consecutive day the figure sets a record for the pandemic.
“I am concerned that the Thanksgiving surge is adding to what will become the Christmas surge, making it look like it wasn’t so bad,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research. and Politics at the University of Minnesota.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a joint forecast Wednesday that projects between 294,000 and 321,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States by Dec. 19.
“We have to understand that we are in a very dangerous place. People have to stop exchanging air, ”Osterholm said. “It’s that easy”.
Osterholm told CNN’s Jim Acosta on Wednesday that Americans need to understand how dangerous the virus is and how much more dangerous it will become.
“We are going to see our hospitals literally on the brink of collapse,” he said.
The federal government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced Wednesday a plan to provide acute hospital care at home and relax regulations on surgical care outside of hospitals as part of an effort. for increasing care capacity as coronavirus hospitalizations rise across the country.
The centers will allow vulnerable people to access critical care other than coronavirus without entering an environment where they may be exposed to the virus.
“We are at a new level of response to the crisis against covid-19,” CMS administrator Seema Verma said in a statement. “With new areas across the country experiencing significant challenges to the capacity of their health care systems, our job is to ensure that CMS regulations do not get in the way of patient care for covid-19 and beyond. ».
Osterholm and Verma are not the only experts pleading and trying to warn the public. On Wednesday Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that his last request prior to Thanksgiving is to keep holiday gatherings indoors as small as possible.
“What we don’t want to see is another increase superimposed on the (current) increase … that we will realize three (to) three and a half weeks from now” if people are not careful, said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, on ABC.
Public health officials have generally urged Americans to celebrate Thanksgiving with only members of the same household, or at least to gather outdoors, to prevent further spread of the virus. The CDC also recommended last week that Americans not travel for Thanksgiving.
Even so, air travel has increased compared to the previous weeks during the pandemic. Sunday was the most important day for air travel since March 16, with 1.05 million people screened, while more than 900,000 people were screened Tuesday, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
As of Wednesday night, there were 12.7 million COVID-19 cases in the United States and more than 262,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Doctors fear ‘darkest days in modern American medical history’ approach
As bleak as the current numbers may seem, doctors and officials across the country are projecting an even tougher next few weeks.
In Houston, Dr. Joseph Varon, chief of staff at United Memorial Medical Center, said he has worked for 251 days in a row due to the pandemic.
He said he suspects the number of cases at the hospital will worsen as the country waits for a vaccine, especially if people don’t take seriously the exhortations of public health officials to socially distance themselves and wear masks.
“My concern for the next six to 12 weeks is that if we don’t get it right, America will see the darkest days in modern American medical history,” Varon told CNN on Wednesday.
My hospital is full. I just opened two new wings so I can stay for the next few days, because I know a lot of people are going to get sick after Thanksgiving, ”he explained.
“My nurses in the middle of the day will start crying because they have so many patients, and it’s a never-ending story,” said Varon. “When they finally finish seeing a patient, they get a phone call from the emergency room telling them there is another patient admitted.”
To stop the spread, more restrictions
More restrictions were announced this week in Nashville, where Mayor John Cooper said that restaurants and bars will be limited to a maximum of 50% of their capacity, with social distancing.
In addition, there will be a schedule of 10 pm as the last call and food and beverage service and no entry to establishments after that time. The new limits will go into effect on November 30.
“Additional modifications are made in response to the continued increase in covid cases and concerns about hospital capacity,” Cooper wrote in Twitter.
In New York, which closed schools last week because local test positivity rates rose above 3%, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that he and the governor are working on a plan to reopen buildings.
The plan will include an increase in testing in schools, which had been once a month. “We want all children to be able to be evaluated at every point,” de Blasio said.
In the hard-hit Texas community of El Paso, County Judge Ricardo Samaniego announced Tuesday a partial curfew that would work to address social and recreational activities, but does not apply when residents are away on essential business. or nonessential. The curfew will run from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and expire on Monday.
“You will be able to buy whatever you need in any essential or nonessential business under the conditions that are established,” he said. “We try to create a balance between the health of our community and the economy.”
“But let me emphasize the following,” said the judge. It’s a confinement order. Residents are strongly urged to take refuge in their home. If you go out to obtain essential or non-essential services, this order strongly recommends that only one person per family participate in obtaining goods and services.
In Louisiana, Governor John Bel Edwards announced that the state would impose more restrictions starting Wednesday, amid a “third aggressive wave of covid-19.” Restaurants, gyms, hair salons, nail salons, movie theaters and nonessential businesses are limited to 50% capacity.
“There is not a single region of our state that is not seeing increases in new cases, hospitalizations, and increasing positivity from covid tests, and I am very concerned about the track record of Louisiana and our ability to continue providing healthcare to our people if our hospitals are overrun with sick patients, “Edwards said.
“This is the time to make changes,” he added.
CNN’s Pete Muntean, Kristina Sgueglia, Naomi Thomas, Lauren Mascarenhas, Artemis Moshtaghian, Cheri Mossburg and Shelby Lin Erdman contributed to this report.