Dec. 24 (UPI) -- For the first time in almost a week, there are more than 200,000 new COVID-19 cases in the United States, along with more than 3,000 new deaths nationwide.
According to updated data from Johns Hopkins University on Thursday, there were 228,100 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday and about 3,500 deaths. The case count is the first to exceed 200,000 since last Friday.
The death toll Wednesday is the third-highest to date. The second-highest was seen on Tuesday.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been about 18.47 million cases and 326,300 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.
There are almost 120,000 coronavirus patients in U.S. hospitals, according to the COVID Tracking Project, the highest figure of the COVID-19 era.
Additionally, California became the first state in the nation to surpass 2 million COVID-19 cases, just 44 days after recording 1 million cases on Nov. 11 as much of the state remains under a stay-at-home order.
The California Department of Public health reported 39,070 new cases from Wednesday, bringing its total to 2,003,146, while also adding 351 deaths to raise its death toll to 23,635.
The state also reported a record of 18,875 hospitalizations including another record with 3,962 patients in ICU units.
"It is a reminder that this virus continues to spread through our communities," said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of California's Health and Human Services Agency. "Hospitals are full, ICU beds are few, people are dying. The simplest thing we can do, but also the most significant, is to stay home. We are the first line of defense against this virus and we must act now."
A forecasting model by researchers at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation now predicts there will be 567,000 deaths in the United States by April.
The updated figure reflects fewer expected vaccinations, due to likely delays in the approval of a new vaccine from AstraZeneca and Oxford University.
"Deaths are expected to rise into mid-January and then begin declining if state governments impose mandates on gatherings, bar and restaurant openings, and other major locations for transmission," the researchers said.
They warned that deaths could surpass 5,000 per day by mid-February if governments don't order additional restrictions.
Of particular concern to health officials is an uptick in holiday travel, which began in earnest on Wednesday. The Transportation Security Administration says almost 1.2 million travelers passed through airport screening checkpoints on Wednesday -- the most in a single day since the start of the pandemic.
Health experts, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have almost universally urged people to stay home over the holiday season to curb the spread of the virus.
In other COVID-19 developments Thursday:
- House Republicans blocked an attempt by Democratic lawmakers to gain unanimous consent and increase the next stimulus payment to Americans to $2,000, as President Donald Trump floated this week.
- The government is far away from its goal to vaccinate 20 million Americans before the end of 2020. So far, a little more than 1 million people in the United States have been vaccinated.