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US crosses 150,000 new COVID-19 cases for 1st time; 7-day average skyrockets

Coronavirus cases per day are rising in nearly every state, deaths per day are climbing in most of them and hospitals are at or near capacity.

The U.S. crossed 150,000 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, setting a new record as the disease tears across the country and hospitals are at or near capacity.

In addition to the 153,496 new cases, according to Johns Hopkins University, the 7-day average ending Thursday was 131,455. In the seven days prior to that, the average was 94,340.

About 1,000 people per day have died in that same 7-day span. It was an average of 887 for the seven days prior.

Hospitalizations also set a new record with 67,096 Thursday, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Nearly 12,800 were in the intensive care unit and 3,459 were on ventilators.

The U.S. leads the world in total cases (10.55 million) and deaths (242,423), according to Johns Hopkins.

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California on Thursday became the second state to reach 1 million total coronavirus cases. Texas announced it reached 1 million on Wednesday.

There are no longer pockets of the country where this is happening. Cases per day are rising in nearly every state and deaths per day are climbing in most of them.

Among the many health officials sounding the alarm was Dr. Julie Watson of Integris Health in Oklahoma.

“We are in trouble,” she said. “If nothing is done soon to slow the rise in cases, our hospitals will be more overwhelmed than they already are and we won’t be able to be there for all of those who need it.”

The American Medical Association renewed its plea for mask-wearing, physical distancing and frequent hand-washing.

“With the holidays quickly approaching, each of us must do everything possible to reduce the spread of COVID-19," AMA President Susan Bailey said. “Failing to do our part will prolong the suffering and disruption to our lives and inevitably lead to more deaths of our friends, neighbors and loved ones.”

North Dakota continues to have the most new COVID-19 cases per capita in the nation, according to Johns Hopkins data, with one in every 83 residents testing positive in the past week. That state does not have a mask mandate.

In Sioux Falls, the largest city in hard-hit South Dakota, Mayor Paul TenHaken cast a tie-breaking vote that defeated a proposed mask mandate. Violations would have carried a $50 fine.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said all restaurants, bars and gyms statewide will have to close at 10 p.m. starting Friday, a major retreat in a corner of the U.S. that had seemingly brought the virus largely under control months ago. He also barred private gatherings of more than 10 people.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in Seattle on Thursday projected that the U.S. will have 320,403 deaths by January 1 and 438,940 by March 1 unless more strict measures are taken. The IHME model says increasing to universal use of face masks would save about 68,000 of those lives projected by March 1. On the other hand, easing mask restrictions could add another 250,000 to that projected death toll.

Health officials are hopeful that a vaccine could be ready to roll out to high risk patients and frontline medical workers by December, but average Americans are not likely to get it until spring.

Incoming White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain says President-elect Joe Biden will appoint a “COVID coordinator” who will lead the administration’s pandemic response.

Klain, speaking on MSNBC Thursday night, says the individual will have “direct access” to the president and will brief him daily on the pandemic. They will also have a team of people underneath them, who will coordinate vaccine distribution, address supply chain disruptions and improve access to testing.

As for President Donald Trump, he has not publicly addressed the pandemic since the election. The Associated Press reports he remains angry that an announcement about progress in developing a vaccine for the disease came after Election Day. And aides say the president has shown little interest in the growing crisis.

Public health experts worry that Trump’s refusal to take aggressive action on the pandemic or to coordinate with the Biden team during the final two months of his presidency will only worsen the effects of the virus and hinder the nation’s ability to swiftly distribute a vaccine next year.