Coronavirus hospitalizations in the U.S. exceeded 125,000 for the first time on Wednesday, coinciding with a new high in daily deaths at almost 4,000, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project.
Figures show U.S. coronavirus hospitalizations have been on a sharp rise since late September, soaring from about 30,000 to 125,220 Americans now hospitalized with the novel virus. The third wave of hospitalizations follows highs in April and July, though those figures did not exceed 60,000 at the time.
Meanwhile, daily fatalities hit a record high at 3,903 on Wednesday, up by over 1,150 deaths since the worst peak last spring, per The COVID Tracking Project. The U.S. is on course to top 20 million infections, with at least 342,400 lives lost to COVID-19.
The news comes as hard-hit Southern California has bottomed out at 0% ICU capacity, and a new mutated coronavirus strain first detected in the U.K. has now been found in Southern California and Colorado.
Officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, resoundingly expected a post-Thanksgiving surge given traveling and close indoor gatherings, and yet another probable "post-seasonal surge" after the winter holidays. The former projection has met criticism, as some say the U.S. hasn’t seen a case surge since holiday festivities in late November.
Reported deaths and hospitalizations typically lag several weeks behind cases. While daily infections continued to tick higher past the 200,000 mark into early December, peaking at over 240,000 on Dec. 17, cases have since decreased, with The COVID Tracking Project recording 225,671 cases on Dec. 30. Amid winter holidays, The COVID Tracking project warned of forthcoming deviations (likely fewer than expected figures) in reported data for the next few weeks: "We urge caution in using these figures," says the web page.
Nevertheless, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams on Thursday urged the public to follow public health measures like wearing a mask, socially distancing and practicing hand hygiene.
Another crucial step toward curbing virus spread is avoiding crowds, and New York City police have already warned against attempts to flock to Times Square to watch the ball drop.
"This has been a marathon, but we don't want to trip at the finish line. We need to be especially cautious today, tonight, have our gatherings virtually, making sure we're washing our hands thoroughly," Adams told ABC's "Good Morning America" co-hosts Thursday. "We want to have a normal New Year next year."