Jan. 2 (UPI) -- COVID-19 could kill another 115,000 people in the United States in four weeks, a new model projects, amid the country leading the world in total deaths.
The country recently topped 20.3 million cases, nearly double the amount of any other country in the world, as the country continues to have the most deaths of any country, now at over 349,000, according to Johns Hopkins University global tracker of COVID-19 cases and deaths.
The University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which previously predicted daily deaths would surge from 765 to 3,000 by late December, has projected 115,000 could die in the next four weeks. By comparison, 77,500 people in the United States died of COVID-19 in December, the deadliest month so far.
The United States reported Saturday 160,606 new COVID-19 cases in the past day amid record levels of hospitalizations, and new British variant in three states.
Along with the new cases, the country also reported 2,051 new deaths Friday. The number of new cases was down Friday from over 220,000 new cases reported Thursday, and the number of new deaths was down from 3,149 reported Thursday, but the hospitalized population remains at record levels.
Between Christmas and New Year's 385 per 1 million people were hospitalized, according to The COVID Tracking Project, which estimates 125,057 are currently hospitalized, according to weekly average.
Meanwhile, the latest COVID-19 relief package scaled back on relief for hospitals, clinics and healthcare providers from $35 billion previously proposed to $3 billion.
"The surge in cases is ongoing," American Hospital Association's Executive Vice President Tom Nickels said. "We anticipate we will need additional funding."
In Alabama, the hospital population is higher than the national average, COVID-19 Tracking Project data shows.
"I think we are approaching the catastrophe that we've all feared," Alabama Hospital Association President Dr. Don Williamson said Saturday.
Williamson said that important procedures were being delayed because hospitals are so crowded.
"Here we're not talking about plastic surgery, we're talking about surgeries such as hip replacements," he said. "I know of examples where scheduled cancer surgeries have had to be delayed because of the growing stress on the system."
Williamson also said that the problem was not so much space as it was limited staff since almost double the staff is required to handle COVID-19 care as opposed to other emergency services.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, 34,373 people have been hospitalized in Alabama, the COVID-19 Tracking Project data shows. The same data now show 2,815 currently hospitalized statewide, and Williamson said that number could reach 3,500 cases or more unless something changes, which means patients may experience longer wait times or patients may even be diverted to another hospital.
"Here's the problem, this is not a Birmingham problem, this is not a Montgomery problem, this is not a Tuscaloosa problem," he added. "Every place I look hospitals are at near record levels of occupancy with COVID."
Alabama has reported over 369,000 cases statewide and 4,872 deaths, according to The New York Times database.
In Texas, the hospitalization rate is also worse than the national average.
Since the pandemic began, Texas has reported over 1.7 million COVID-19 cases and over 28,400 deaths.
California currently has the highest number of COVID-19 cases of any state in the country at over 2.3 million and has also reported over 26,300 total deaths.
Recently, California health officials reported a record daily death toll of more than 580 people, and intensive care unit capacity being dangerously low in many parts of the states, including areas in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley reaching zero bed capacity.
Design and construction experts from the U.S. Army Corps are being deployed to the Los Angeles region to "evaluate and where necessary upgrade oxygen delivery systems at six hospitals," the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services said.
The office added hospitals in the region are treating an "unprecedented" amount of COVID-19 patients and "the internal oxygen delivery systems built into many older hospitals are being overtaxed by the volume of oxygen flow required to treat patients with respiratory issues that arise from COVID-19."
Recently, Florida became the third state to identify at least one person with the British variant of COVID-19, joining Colorado and California.
Florida has reported over 1.3 million cases and 21,672 deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and Colorado has reported over 338,000 total cases and 4,936 total deaths.
The nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the variant, supposedly 70% more contagious than the strain that sparked the pandemic, could already be in several states.
Georgia, which has reported 654,950 cases since the pandemic began, and 10,610 deaths, reported Friday a new record of more than 8,700 new COVID-19 daily cases.
New York has reported over 996,000 cases to date, and the highest total death toll of over 37,700.
"As we start 2021, I encourage all New Yorkers to look to their better angels and continue the practices we know stop the spread of this virus -- wash your hands, socially distance, and wear a mask," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.