WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House coronavirus task force warned that much of the country is in the grips of an “unrelenting” surge in COVID-19 cases and urged tough countermeasures, as the number of U.S. infections reported on Thursday hit a new daily record of more than 91,000.
The hardest-hit regions in the West and Midwest encompass a number of battleground states expected to play a pivotal role in Tuesday’s U.S. presidential election contest between Republican incumbent Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden.
“We are on a very difficult trajectory. We’re going in the wrong direction,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading task force member and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said coronavirus cases were on the rise in 47 states, and patients were overwhelming hospitals across the country.
“If things do not change, if they continue on the course we’re on, there’s gonna be a whole lot of pain in this country with regard to additional cases and hospitalizations, and deaths,” Fauci said in a CNBC interview on Wednesday night.
The White House coronavirus task force has warned states in the middle and western parts of the country that aggressive measures will be necessary to curb the virus’ spread, according to weekly state reports seen by CNN.
“We continue to see unrelenting, broad community spread in the Midwest, Upper Midwest and West. This will require aggressive mitigation to control both the silent, asymptomatic spread and symptomatic spread,” one state’s report said.
The ominous assessment was echoed on Thursday by Dr. Ashish Jha, Brown University’s dean of public health, who told Reuters, “things are very, very bad in the United States right now.”
“We are having some of the largest breakouts that we’ve had during the entire pandemic,” he said, adding that the initial waves of infections last spring were more localized.
“And nine, 10 months into this pandemic, we are still largely not quite prepared.”
At least a dozen states – Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio and Oregon – reported record one-day increases in COVID-19 cases on Thursday, according to a Reuters tally.
Seventeen states reported a record number of hospitalizations, a metric that has soared across the country and is independent of how much testing is being done.
Nationally, health authorities on Thursday confirmed 91,248 more people tested positive for COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, the highest single-day increase in cases reported to date, according to a Reuters tally. The previous 24-hour record tally was 84,169 cases, set just last Friday.
The number of Americans hospitalized with COVID-19 stood at