US Covid cases surge on Thanksgiving as warnings holiday will be mother of all superspreader events

Gino Spocchia
·3 min read
 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

Americans awoke on Thursday to celebrate a Thanksgiving transformed by the Covid-19 pandemic, with tens of thousands hospitalised and the annual Macy’s parade limited to a television live stream.

On Wednesday, a record 89,959 people were in care, according to The Covid Tracking Project, with hospitals across the United States at capacity as Covid-19 continued to accelerate.

And records continue to be broken, with the country’s two biggest states, California and Texas, reporting more new cases than at any point in the pandemic on Wednesday, with more than 18,000 and 15,000 each.

Some 12.7 million Americans have now contracted the virus since the pandemic struck the United States, with around two million cases reported in the past two weeks alone. A rate at which there seems no end.

As have coronavirus deaths broken records, and have done so over sixteen consecutive days, reaching 2,285 on Wednesday, according to the Coronavirus Tracking Project.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that 75,000 more Americans could die still, between Thursday’s holiday and mid-December, when 312,000 Americans would have lost their lives to the virus.

"We have to understand we're in a very dangerous place. People have to stop swapping air," said Michael Osterholm, director at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. "It's just that simple."

Dr Anthony Fauci, the White House’s adviser on coronavirus, made similar comments to the Washington Post this week, and warned: “What we're doing now is going to be reflected two, three weeks from now."

"If in fact you're in a situation when you do the things that are increasing the risk, the travel, the congregate setting, not wearing masks, the chances are that you will see a surge superimposed upon a surge.”

Still, more Americans took to the skies than at any point since the pandemic started, with some six million passengers passing through the country’s airports since 20 November, according to Transport Security Administration (TSA) statistics.

While that represents a 60 per cent collapse on the same period last year, when a record 26 million passengers and crew passed through US airport screening in the 11-day period around Thanksgiving, the CDC recommended people stay at home.

"It's not a requirement. It's a recommendation for the American public to consider," said Dr Henry Walker, the CDC's Covid-19 incident manager.

"Right now, especially as we're seeing this sort of exponential growth in cases, and the opportunity to translocate disease or infection from one part of the country to another, it leads to our recommendation to avoid travel at this time."

Around 50 million people were predicted to have travelled as Thursday approached, according to the AAA, with most Americans travelling by car to be with close relatives, despite warnings.

The president-elect, Joe Biden, addressed the nation on Wednesday and admitted that while many Americans were wary, “We have to slow the growth of this virus. We owe it to the doctors and the nurses and the frontline workers... We owe it to our fellow citizens."

The 78-year-old will spend Thanksgiving in private, with his wife Jill Biden and their daughter and son-in-law, while the rest of the family marks the holiday at other small households.

US president Donald Trump, meanwhile, said Americans should celebrate and “gather”, in a Thanksgiving proclamation that disregarded his own administration’s advice to Americans.

"I encourage all Americans to gather, in homes and places of worship, to offer a prayer of thanks to God for our many blessing," said the White House statement on Wednesday.

But, as a former White House medical team adviser, Dr Jonathan Reiner, said to CNN this week, the holiday was "potentially the mother of all superspreader events."

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