The U.S. counted more than 100,000 new cases of the coronavirus illness COVID-19 on Wednesday, the most in a single day since the start of the outbreak, fulfilling a prediction made by Dr. Anthony Fauci in June.
Fauci, head of the Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, said at the time with cases closer to 42,000 a day, that the U.S. could see its infection rate rise above 100,000 if the pandemic were not contained and Americans failed to comply with the measures recommended by health experts — frequent hand washing, social distancing and wearing face masks.
His grim prediction, made while testifying before a Senate committee, irked White House officials and was criticized by President Donald Trump as being alarmist. Fauci, and other experts on the White House task force created to manage the pandemic, have been sidelined by Trump in recent months, although Fauci continues to give media interviews and urge Americans to follow safety measures. Fauci made the same prediction in an interview with the Washington Post last week.
The U.S. counted 107,872 new infections on Wednesday, according to a New York Times tracker, and at least 1,616 Americans died. In the past week, the U.S. has averaged 91,878 cases a day, a 51% increase from two weeks ago.
The U.S. leads the world by cases with 9.49 million and deaths with 233,777, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University, and accounts for more than a fifth of global cases and fatalities.
Five states — Colorado, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota and Nebraska — set one-day records, the Times tracker shows.
Hospitals, especially in rural areas, are rapidly filling. There are currently 52,049 COVID-19 patients in U.S. hospitals, the highest number since Aug. 6, according to the COVID Tracking Project and a roughly 76% increase from a month ago.
Eighteen states — including Kansas, Tennessee, Virginia, Oklahoma, Montana, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Ohio, Nebraska, Minnesota, Indiana, Wisconsin and West Virginia — reported record hospitalizations on Wednesday, according to the Washington Post.
“Now is the time to develop a testing strategy to maximize our ability to identify the silent epidemic of asymptomatic COVID-19 infections,” said Robert Redfied, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a tweet Wednesday. Redfield drew a harsh response from Twitter users, who asked why such a strategy was not already in place, 11 months into the crisis.
The World Health Organization said Thursday that the world can beat the pandemic, but countries must use science, must not backslide on critical health goals, and must prepare now for the next pandemic.
“We’ve seen this past year that countries with robust health emergency preparedness infrastructure have been able to act quickly to contain and control the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” the WHO said in a statement released ahead of a virtual session of the World Health Assembly.
It noted that many countries and cities have succeeded in preventing or controlling transmission, using a “comprehensive, evidence-based approach.”
One other reason to be hopeful: “For the first time, the world has rallied behind a plan to accelerate the development of the vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics we need, and to ensure they are available to all countries on the basis of equity,” said the statement.
In other news:
• Australia, a country with a population of 26 million, is close to eliminating community transmission of COVID-19 with no new cases reported Thursday and only seven counted since Saturday, the Washington Post reported. Australia is credited with moving fast to close its border and rapidly gearing up testing and contact tracing. But it also benefited from leadership that encouraged citizens to take the pandemic seriously from early on and prepared them for restrictions on movement. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, a Conservative, is also credited with building a national cabinet with state leaders from all parties to coordinate decision making.
• Germany recorded nearly 20,000 new coronavirus cases in one day, its highest level yet, the Associated Press reported. The national disease-control center, the Robert Koch Institute, on Thursday said 19,990 infections had been confirmed in the past 24 hours. That tops the previous record of 19,059 set on Saturday. It brought the total case tally in Germany, a nation of 83 million people, since the pandemic began to 597,583. Another 118 deaths raised the total to 10,930. Like other European countries, Germany has seen a sharp rise in infections in recent weeks. A four-week partial shutdown took effect on Monday, with bars, restaurants, leisure and sports facilities being closed and new contact restrictions imposed. Shops and schools remain open.
• Sweden's prime minister, Stefan Lofven, has gone into self-isolation after a person close to him was exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, ABC News reported. Sweden, which has taken a far more lax approach to the pandemic than its Nordic neighbors, is currently experiencing a surge in new cases, and on Wednesday passed 6,000 total fatalities. “The developments are going in the wrong direction fast. More are infected. More die. This is a serious situation,” Lofven wrote in a Facebook post.
• Ireland has succeeded in reducing its R number, the average number of others an infected person will infect, to below 1, a crucial step in containing the spread, the Guardian reported. Ireland reimposed a full lockdown two weeks ago after a surge in cases, but now has the seventh lowest rate among 31 European countries. Officials reported 444 new cases on Wednesday and eight deaths, boosting the overall death toll to 1,930. Ireland has 63,483 confirmed cases, or 39.77 per 100,000 people.
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide now stands at 48.3 million, the Johns Hopkins data show, and the death toll is 1.2 million. At least 32 million people have recovered from COVID-19.
Brazil has the second highest death toll at 161,106 and is third by cases at 5.6 million.
India is second in cases with 8.4 million, and third in deaths at 123,315.
Mexico has the fourth highest death toll at 93,228 and 10th highest case tally at 943,630.
The U.K has had 47,832 deaths, the highest total mortality figure in Europe and fifth highest in the world, and 1.1 million cases, which is ninth highest in the world.
China, where the disease was first reported late last year, has had 91,516 cases and 4,740 fatalities, according to its official numbers.