The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus illness COVID-19 headed toward 230,000 on Saturday and cases topped 9 million after more than 99,000 infections were counted in a record one-day tally, with infections climbing in all swing states just days before the presidential election.
At least 971 Americans died on Friday, according to a New York Times tracker. In the past week, the U.S. has averaged 79,833 cases a day, up 42% from the average two weeks ago.
With just three days until the U.S. presidential election, medical journal The Lancet joined other prestigious publications including the New England Journal of Medicine in urging Americans to vote for change. In an editorial, The Lancet editors outline the “disastrous” U.S. response to the virus that has made it the world leader in case numbers and death counts and the devastating impact it has had on the economy.
“The fraying social safety net, continual erosion of trust in the public sector, the perceived diminished responsibility of the federal government, and political interference with crucial public health apparatus (most markedly the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) have culminated in the disastrous US response to the coronavirus pandemic,” the authors wrote. “But the crucial acknowledgment that should be made is the absence of comprehensive health infrastructure. Without it the USA is at great risk.”
Despite that, conservatives are still pushing, “out of ideology and opposition,” to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, it continues.
“Americans need equitable individual access to quality health care that is supported by efficient and autonomous public health governance, both as a matter of health security and as a matter of human rights,” the authors write.
The pandemic is racing across the U.S., even as President Donald Trump and his advisers seek to downplay its impact with Trump insisting several times this week that the U.S. has “rounded the corner” and the virus is contained. Donald Trump Jr. told Fox News on Thursday that deaths are at “almost nothing” on a day when more than 1,000 Americans died.
There more than 2,000 new infections in Colorado, more than 6,400 in Illinois and more than 1,000 new cases in New Mexico, the Times tracker shows, all fresh one-day records. And while deaths remain below their spring levels, they are rising and are expected to move higher as more patients are hospitalized.
There are currently 46,688 American COVID-19 patients in hospitals, according to the COVID Tracking Project. That’s the most since Aug. 13 and a 51% increase from a month ago.
“While we are not yet close to the hospitalization peaks of almost 60,000 that we saw in the spring and summer, the average number of people hospitalized this week rose to 42,621, a very substantial increase from the lows of around 30,000 that we saw just a month ago,” the COVID Tracking Project wrote in a weekly summary.
Twenty-five states have set a record for cases in the last two weeks, including 17 states with record highs since last Wednesday.
The traditional swing states of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are all seeing a steep uptick in new cases. “Beyond the large rises in cases since October 1, hospitalizations are up at least 96 percent in all four states. Ohio and Wisconsin have also surpassed their previous hospitalization records,” said the summary.
A USA Today/Suffolk University Poll published Friday found nearly six in 10 voters disapprove of Trump’s campaign rallies, which feature large crowds gathering closely with few face masks to prevent the virus spreading. Nearly 64% approve of rival Democrat Joe Biden’s decision to hold far smaller gatherings and encourage attendees to socially distance.
In other news:
• Russian officials in Moscow are preparing for mass vaccinations against COVID-19 as Russia’s daily tally climbed above 18,000 to set a record, Reuters reported. Moscow residents may be able to be vaccinated as early as next month if large volumes of doses are delivered in time, Deputy Mayor Anastasia Rakova said on Friday. Russia registered the first COVID-19 vaccine but experts are concerned that is may not be safe as Phase 3 clinical trials were not completed.
• There was bad news on the medical front when Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. REGN, -2.20% said an independent data monitoring committee (IDMC) for the REGN-COV2 antibody cocktail treatment trials for COVID-19 recommended that the patient trial be “modified,” with the enrollment of some patients placed on hold. REGN-COV2 was one of the treatments prescribed to Trump after he tested positive for COVID-19. Based on a “potential safety signal and an unfavorable risk/benefit profile at this time,” the IDMC recommended that further enrollment of patients requiring high-flow oxygen or mechanical ventilation be placed on hold pending analysis of further data. The IDMC also recommends continuing enrollment of patients requiring no or low-flow oxygen and the continuation of the outpatient trial without modification. REGN-COV2 is currently being evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration for a potential Emergency Use Authorization in mild-to-moderate outpatients with high risk of poor outcomes.
• A study has found that a coronavirus variant that originated in Spain accounts for most cases in the U.K., the Guardian reported, suggesting the government’s travel policies during the summer were flawed. “In Wales and Scotland the variant was at 80% in mid-September, whereas frequencies in Switzerland and England were around 50% at that time,” said the authors of the study, which was conducted in Switzerland and has not yet been peer reviewed. The strain first showed up in July as quarantine-free travel to Spain was allowed for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It has since spread to other European countries. The U.K. has the highest death toll of any European country at 46,319, and the fifth highest in the world, the Johns Hopkins data shows. It has 992,874 confirmed cases, or ninth highest tally in the world.