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U.S. reports nearly 200,000 new coronavirus cases as more than 1,500 people die daily

A patient arrives outside Maimonides Medical Center, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., November 17, 2020.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

The United States reported more than 195,500 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, a record-high spike less than a week before Thanksgiving, which public health officials are warning could further exacerbate the outbreak.

Friday’s jump of nearly 200,000 cases brings the seven-day average of new cases up over 167,600, an increase of nearly 20% compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The seven-day average of new cases are up by at least 5% week over week in 43 states and the District of Columbia, Hopkins data shows.

The rise in cases is driving a surge in hospitalizations and deaths. More than 82,100 people are currently hospitalized with Covid-19 across the country, more than at any point before during the pandemic, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project, which is run by journalists at The Atlantic.

The Atlantic obtained data earlier this week from the Department of Health and Human Services that showed about 20% of American hospitals faced or expected to face a staffing shortage last week.

More than 1,800 people in the U.S. died of Covid-19 on Friday, according to Hopkins data. The nation has recorded more than 1,500 fatalities daily since Tuesday, death tolls not seen since May. On Thursday, the U.S. recorded more than 2,000 deaths.

Earlier this week, Dr. Henry Walke, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Covid-19 incident manager, said the agency is “alarmed” by the “exponential increase in cases and hospitalizations and deaths.” At the agency’s first official press briefing in months, he urged Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving gatherings.

Public health specialists and epidemiologists are sounding the alarm that Thanksgiving could worsen an already severe nationwide outbreak. Dr. Tom Frieden, the former director of the CDC who was appointed by President Barack Obama, said Friday on Twitter that if “we’re not much more careful than we’re planning to be, this Thanksgiving will be the Super Bowl of superspreading events.”

Dr. Bill Schaffner, an epidemiologist at Vanderbilt University, said he’s “very concerned” about the holiday weekend. He said even if people have plans to practice social distancing during the Thanksgiving meal, such protocols “will become less complete by the end of the day, particularly after a glass or three of eggnog.”

“We will be giving thanks, but we’ll also be giving the virus, I’m afraid,” he said in a phone interview. “People will take these back to their homes. They’ll be spread within the family further and to neighbors and friends.”

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