US coronavirus cases near 200,000 a day as catastrophic crisis hits new heights

Friday saw 195,500 cases, a record infection rate for a single day, as parts of US imposed restrictions

A healthcare worker prepares to use a swab to test a man for coronavirus in Houston, Texas, on 20 November.
A healthcare worker prepares to use a swab to test a man for coronavirus in Houston, Texas, on 20 November. Photograph: Adrees Latif/Reuters
A healthcare worker prepares to use a swab to test a man for coronavirus in Houston, Texas, on 20 November. Photograph: Adrees Latif/Reuters
and agencies

Last modified on Mon 23 Nov 2020 16.21 GMT

America’s catastrophic coronavirus crisis hit new heights as the most recent daily total of numbers of new cases neared the grim landmark of 200,000 a day and the overall total of infections burst through 12m.

Daily numbers of new US cases have almost doubled in less than three weeks after hitting 100,000 for the first time. The record of 195,542 new cases on Friday was the latest of several recent daily highs, a tally by Johns Hopkins University found.

The nation’s total number of confirmed cases reached 12.01m on Saturday, six days after the number had reached 11m – by far the largest total in the world.

Deaths rates are getting closer to the dire numbers seen in the spring. The US daily death toll exceeded 2,000 on Thursday, the first time since early May. On Friday, 1,878 deaths were reported. The US leads the world with more than 255,000 dead.

The news comes as vast swaths of America are imposing restrictions on movement and businesses in a bid to contain the spiraling pandemic, even as the federal government response led by the Trump administration remains largely passive.

On Saturday California will enact a night-time curfew as surging cases threaten to swamp healthcare systems, and the state’s largest county warned that an even more drastic lockdown could be imminent.

The newest restrictions require people not on essential errands to stay home from 10pm to 5am through 21 December, with a possible extension if rapidly worsening trends do not improve. People will be allowed to shop for groceries, pick up food and walk their dogs.

Authorities say the focus is on keeping people from mixing socially and drinking, the kinds of activities that are blamed for causing Covid-19 infections to soar after dipping only a few months ago.

Dr Mark Cullen, an infectious disease expert who recently retired from Stanford University, said the underlying goal was based on a reasonable interpretation of data.

“Large numbers of people getting together oblivious of controls, no masks, no social distancing, often indoors – a lot of those things are in fact occurring at night,” Cullen said. However, he also questioned whether a limited curfew would be effective.

The California move is just one of many local attempts to halt the virus’s spread. On Friday strict restrictions in Philadelphia closed indoor dining, theaters, gyms and other indoor spots for six weeks. In New York City the nation’s largest school system shuttered, outraging many working parents. States such as Oregon, Washington, North Dakota and many others have also introduced crackdowns.

Many experts are also worried about next week’s Thanksgiving holiday, when millions of Americans are likely to travel and gather with family despite top health officials warning of the potential for a super-spreader event that could plunge the ongoing crisis to new depths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued recommendations not to travel last week as hospitalizations and deaths are surging across the US and the healthcare system is being squeezed by a combination of sick patients filling up beds and medical workers falling ill.

The CDC’s Erin Sauber-Schatz said: “The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is at home with the people in your household.”