Oct. 14 (UPI) -- For the fifth time in the past week, the United States has added more than 50,000 COVID-19 cases and also saw a dramatic spike in deaths, according to data Wednesday from Johns Hopkins University.
Research at Johns Hopkins shows 52,400 new cases nationwide on Tuesday and an additional 800 deaths -- nearly three times Monday's toll.
After only three days in September with more than 50,000 cases, the United States has seen seven so far this month -- and five in the past week. Cases have risen nearly 15% in the past two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 7.86 million cases and 215,900 deaths nationwide.
A top U.S. health official said the rise in cases has been at least partly fueled by smaller gatherings. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield made the assessment during a call with governors on Tuesday.
"In the public square, we're seeing a higher degree of vigilance and mitigation steps in many jurisdictions," he said. "But what we're seeing as the increasing threat right now is actually acquisition of infection through small household gatherings."
The dynamic is particularly worrisome with Thanksgiving coming up, he said.
"We think it's really important to stress the vigilance of these continued mitigation steps in the household setting."
In Utah, Gov. Gary Herbert warned that the state is "facing its most dire episode yet in this pandemic." On Tuesday, he introduced a new system under which areas with high transmission rates will have greater restrictions.
"We are utilizing 15.8% of our ICU beds to treat COVID-19 patients, more than double what we were before, and our total ICU utilization is at 69.6%," Herbert tweeted. "This leaves our hospitals precariously close to being unable to treat COVID and non-COVID patients in need of critical care."
Under the new "transmission index," Utah counties will be ranked by positive cases per 100,000 residents and hospital capacity. Residents living in "high" or "moderate" risk areas will be required to wear masks at all public gatherings, including weddings, religious services and sporting events.
Utah has the fifth-highest number of cases per 100,000 residents, according to the Brown School of Public Health.
In Wisconsin, officials said the state has set a record for new cases and officials are preparing to open a field hospital at the state fairgrounds near Milwaukee.
The "alternate care facility" was announced last week and officials say it's designed to treat patients who are recovering from COVID-19 but aren't well enough to return home. The alternate facility could eventually treat more than 500 patients.