“We’re also worried that at some point soon we’re going to have a really tough time finding the space and the staff to take care of all the sick patients coming in with Covid-19 who really need our help,” said Dr. Nicole Van Groningen of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
And Friday’s bleak case milestone also means the nation has also recorded by far the most Covid-19 infections. It’s double what India — the country with the second-highest number of cases — has reported and nearly triple what Brazil — the third country in line — has reported.
But the worst may not be over just yet: experts fear that in the coming weeks — following holiday travel and gatherings — the US could see another surge of cases that could also drive hospitalizations and deaths even higher.
Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN earlier this week the country has seen a surge that has “just gotten… out of control,” and that the coming weeks could be even worse.
“Once you get to large numbers of people at a dinner inside, poor air ventilation and circulation, that’s when you get in trouble,” he said. “That’s what we’re concerned about– that in addition to the surge, we’re going to have an increase superimposed upon that surge which could make January even worse than December.”
“I think we just have to assume that it’s going to get worse,” Fauci added.
How states are faring at the start of a new year
In Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Friday the state reported more than 4,300 new cases — a record high he said comes “in the surge after Christmas travel and gatherings.”
Georgia announced Friday a total of more than 8,700 new Covid-19 cases in the state — a new high. Maryland on the same day reported its second-highest number of daily cases. New York, meanwhile, added nearly 16,500 new cases — a day after it hit its highest ever one-day case count.
“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.
Texas health officials reported record-high Covid-19 hospitalizations across the state for the fifth day in a row, with more than 12,400 patients.
ICU capacity in many parts of the state remains dangerously low. In Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley, zero beds are available. One health official said earlier this week the surge of patients has been pushing hospitals to the “brink of catastrophe.”
And that’s as some hospitals are having infrastructure issues that are preventing them from providing a high pressure supply of oxygen to patients.
The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services said design and construction experts from the US Army Corps of Engineers are being deployed to the Los Angeles region to “evaluate and where necessary upgrade oxygen delivery systems at six hospitals.”
Hospitals in the region, the office said, are treating an “unprecedented” number 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.”
Fauci: US will continue giving vaccine doses weeks apart
So far, the vaccines approved in the US require two doses based a few weeks apart. And the nation will continue to do it that way and will not follow the UK’s decision to potentially delay second doses, Fauci told CNN on Friday.
“I would not be in favor of that,” Fauci said when asked about the UK’s new dosing regimen. “We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing.”
The UK adopted that strategy in order to give as many people as possible the first dose as quickly as possible, saying that it affords some amount of protection.
“The fact is we want to stick with what the science tells us, and the data that we have for both [vaccines] indicate you give a prime, followed by a boost in 21 days with Pfizer and 28 days with Moderna. And right now, that’s the way we’re going with it, and that’s the decision that is made,” Fauci said.
“We make decisions based on data. We don’t have any data of giving a single dose and waiting for more than the normal period of time” to give the second dose, he added.
CNN’s Rebekah Riess, Elizabeth Cohen, Naomi Thomas, Cheri Mossburg and Raja Razek contributed to this report.