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U.S. adds 162K COVID-19 cases and highest one-day death toll since May

By
Don Jacobson
Masked New Yorkers line up on Tuesday to receive about 900 free Thanksgiving turkeys and food vouchers from Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens, which is making the annual donations to help needy families in New York City. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Masked New Yorkers line up on Tuesday to receive about 900 free Thanksgiving turkeys and food vouchers from Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens, which is making the annual donations to help needy families in New York City. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 18 (UPI) -- The United States has added another 162,000 COVID-19 cases -- and more people died nationwide on Tuesday than any other day in the last six months, according to updated data from Johns Hopkins University.

The new cases and more than 1,700 deaths were shown in the updated data on Wednesday. The last time that many patients died of the coronavirus disease was May 14.

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Also Tuesday, almost 4,000 patients were hospitalized in the United States, according to the COVID Tracking Project. There are now 77,000 patients in U.S. hospitals, about one-fifth in intensive care units. The ICU count is nearing the record high, about 15,100, set in April.

Industry officials said Tuesday the surges in cases have led to record infection numbers in nursing homes and assisted living communities -- particularly in the Midwest, which has seen a 200% rise since the middle of September.

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"Our worst fears have come true as COVID runs rampant among the general population, and long-term care facilities are powerless to fully prevent it from entering due to its asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread," said Mark Parkinson, president of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living.

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"Our healthcare heroes are doing everything they can to prevent it from spreading further, but this level of COVID nationwide puts serious strain on our workforce, supplies, and testing capacity."

Since the start of the crisis, there have been 11.4 million cases and 248,800 deaths in the United States related to the pandemic. Wednesday, Pfizer and partner BioNTech said they have finished final human testing for their vaccine, which has proven about 95% effective.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that Americans should "think twice" about traveling and attending Thanksgiving dinners next week as COVID-19 numbers rise. Speaking to USA Today's editorial board, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said each American should do a risk assessment to determine if it's worth it to possibly expose themselves and their families to the virus.

"As we get into the colder weather, we should really think twice about these kinds of dinner parties where you're not sure of whether the people that are in your bubble [are safe]," he said.

"Then you're going to start seeing these unanticipated infections related to innocent home gatherings, particularly as we head into the holiday season."

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Fauci said his three adults daughters decided not to travel to his home for Thanksgiving this year, and for that, he's proud of them. Instead, they plan to have Thanksgiving dinner over Zoom.

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"We're going to say we had a great Thanksgiving last year, we're looking forward too a great Thanksgiving next year, but today, we're going to call a timeout," he said.

In California, officials in Los Angeles County announced tighter restrictions and warned there may soon be curfews.

The new restrictions, beginning Friday, cut capacity at all non-essential indoor businesses like retail stores, offices and personal care services to 25%. Capacity at outdoor restaurants will be limited to 50%.

Since the start of November, the seven-day case average in Los Angeles County has nearly doubled and hospitalizations have surged to more than 1,000 per day. Officials said a stay-home order and curfews will take effect if the county's averages rise much higher.

"Los Angeles County is at a critical moment," county health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said. "I urge our residents, businesses and community leaders to heed this warning and follow these heightened safeguards."

In Montana, Gov. Steve Bullock ordered new restrictions, including a limit for public gatherings and reduced capacity at restaurants, bars and casinos. The measures include mandatory face coverings in public statewide, starting Friday.

Bullock, who will leave office in January, said he will use unspent federal aid to help Montana businesses and provide $200 per week in enhanced unemployment benefits for a month.

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"We must find a way to make it through these coming winter months," he said. "We need all Montanans to recognize that there is widespread community transmission, and your risk of becoming infected with the virus increases the more you engage in gatherings of any kind."

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