The data show there were just under 2,600 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday. The only other day that saw a higher toll was April 15, when 2,607 patients died nationwide.
The new deaths pushed the national toll beyond 270,000 since the pandemic began nearly a year ago, according to Johns Hopkins data. The United States also added about 180,100 cases on Tuesday, the fifth-highest daily count to date.
The most deaths Tuesday were seen in Texas, Michigan and Pennsylvania, according to Worldometer. The U.S. daily average for the past week is 1,500.
There have been 13.73 million coronavirus cases in the United States since the start of the crisis.
Hospitalizations also set a record for fourth day in a row on Tuesday. There are nearly 99,000 patients in hospitals nationwide, according to the COVID Tracking Project. About a fifth are in intensive care.
Hospitalizations nationwide have more than doubled in the past month and tripled since the start of October.
A top health official said emergency approval for a vaccine is coming soon.
Dr. Moncef Slaoui, chief science adviser to the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed, said he expects the Food and Drug Administration will approve Pfizer's vaccine next week. Pfizer says the vaccine is 95% efficient.
"I hope by the 10th or 11th of December the Pfizer vaccine is approved," Slaoui told ABC's Good Morning America, urging Americans to trust that government approval means the vaccine is safe.
"No corners have been cut," he said. "The [vaccine] development has been done very quickly because we had great science to allow us to do all the discovery work in weeks rather than in years."
The British government on Wednesday gave emergency approval for Pfizer's vaccine, the first Western nation to sign off one.
In Texas, officials announced a single-day record in cases Tuesday and said hospital admissions in North Texas, which includes Dallas, are also close to an all-time high.
"We remain concerned about a potential surge on our hospitals over the next few weeks, as we see the impact holiday gatherings may have on the spread," Dallas County officials said in a statement.