US sets coronavirus infection record as deaths climb towards 224,000
The US coronavirus caseload has reached record heights, with more than 83,000 infections reported in a single day.
This is the latest ominous sign of the disease’s grip on America, as states from Connecticut to the Rocky Mountain West reel under the surge.
The US death toll has grown to 223,995, according to the Covid-19 Dashboard published by Johns Hopkins University.
The total caseload across the States reported on the site Friday was 83,757 – topping the 77,362 cases reported on July 16.
The impact is being felt in every section of the country. Responses include a lockdown that started on Friday at the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s reservation in South Dakota, a plea by Florida health officials for a halt to children’s birthday parties, dire warnings from Utah’s governor, and an increasingly desperate situation at a hospital in northern Idaho, which is running out of space for patients and considering airlifts to Seattle or Portland, Oregon.
Dr Robert Scoggins, a pulmonologist at the Kootenai Health hospital in Coeur d’Alene in Idaho, said: “We’ve essentially shut down an entire floor of our hospital. We’ve had to double rooms. We’ve bought more hospital beds.
“Our hospital is not built for a pandemic.”
In the southern Idaho city of Twin Falls, St Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Centre said it would no longer accept children because it is overwhelmed with coronavirus patients. Except for new-borns, all under the age of 18 will be sent 128 miles away in Boise.
Utah’s governor Gary Herbert proclaimed Friday to be “a record day for Utah – but not a good one” as Covid-19 cases reached an all-time high for the state.
He said: “Up until now, our hospitals have been able to provide good care to all Covid and non-Covid patients who need it.
“But today we stand on the brink. If Utahans do not take serious steps to limit group gatherings and wear masks, our healthcare providers will not have the ability to provide quality care for everyone who needs it.”
By public health order, masks are required in 21 counties, Mr Herbert said, as he urged Utah residents to wear one whenever they are around someone outside their immediate household.
The seven-day rolling average for new daily Covid-19 cases in the US surpassed 61,140 on Thursday, compared with 44,647 two weeks ago.
The record was reached July 22 when the rolling average was 67,293 in the midst of a summer outbreak driven largely by surges of the virus in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California.
The US surge mirrors a similarly widespread spike in Europe, where Rome, Paris and other major cities are reining in nightlife as part of the increasingly drastic measures undertaken to slow the spread of the pandemic.
French authorities said the country had recorded more than one million confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic, becoming the second country in Western Europe after Spain to reach that number.
The head of the World Health Organisation warned that countries in the Northern Hemisphere are at a “critical juncture” as cases and deaths continue to rise.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “The next few months are going to be very tough and some countries are on a dangerous track.”