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The U.S. is now averaging more than 700,000 new coronavirus cases per day, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows.
The country reported about 4.91 million cases in the week ending Saturday. That's more cases in seven days than in April, May, June and July 2021 combined. At the latest pace, eight Americans are testing positive every second. Each of the last five days ranks in the top five of the entire pandemic for highest case counts.
"I would not be surprised at all if we go over a million cases per day," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president's chief medical adviser, told News 4 New York in an interview Saturday. For perspective, at one point in June the U.S. average daily caseload over a week was just above 11,000.
And while the prevalent omicron variant is milder on a per-case basis, fast-swelling numbers of new cases are burdening hospitals. A federal report released Saturday shows about 138,000 COVID-19 patients in hospital beds, up 32% from the previous week.
But Fauci told the TV station the dismal numbers could start to decline by month's end.
"I can’t predict accurately, because no one can. But I would hope that by the time we get to the fourth week in January ... that we will start to see this coming down," Fauci said.
– Mike Stucka
Also in the news:
►U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, announced on Twitter Sunday evening that she tested positive with a breakthrough case of COVID-19. She is currently experiencing symptoms and recovering at home, and had received her booster shot in the fall.
►The Chinese city of Tianjin began mass-testing its 14 million residents Sunday as it faced what might be China’s first outbreak of omicron. The Winter Olympics open in less than four weeks in nearby Beijing.
►The NHL has postponed two games scheduled for Monday night because of COVID-19 issues. The Tampa Bay Lightning’s game at the New Jersey Devils and the Ottawa Senators’ game at the Edmonton Oilers were postponed. The Devils and Oilers are the teams affected by COVID-19.
►Illinois Gov. Pritzker agreed to provide 350,000 coronavirus tests to the Chicago Public Schools, scrambling to get 330,000 students back in classrooms. Schools closed Wednesday, with no remote learning, after teachers voted to teach online only. Schools will not reopen Monday unless enough teachers return, schools CEO Pedro Martinez said. Negotiations resumed Sunday.
►With 15.9 million new cases worldwide in the week ending Saturday, or 26.2 infections per second, the global pace is up 64% from a week earlier.
📈Today's numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 60 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 837,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 306.5 million cases and 5.48 million deaths. More than 207.6 million Americans – 62.5% – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘What we're reading: What about us? The 16 million Americans who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are "questioning our protection" against COVID-19 – but stuck waiting for a third shot. Read the full story.
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Experts: It may be time to consider what level of COVID is acceptable
Political leaders must start talking about what levels of COVID-19 is acceptable, argue a trio of health experts in a new commentary in the medical journal JAMA. Respiratory viruses such as the flu and now SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, will be impossible to eliminate because they mutate so much the immune system can't protect against them forever, some experts say. Omicron is described as being "milder" than previous variants, but many people are still ending up in the hospital, crowding the health care system – which isn't sustainable.
Still, a variant that is widespread but causes little disease could be something everyone can put up with, like the flu, wrote Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and health policy expert at the University of Pennsylvania and two colleagues. Read more here.
– Karen Weintraub
2 years later, latest surge derails basic services again
The omicron-fueled coronavirus infections slamming the U.S. are causing a breakdown in basic functions and services. Many police, fire and emergency medical services, hospitals, schools and government agencies have employed an all-hands-on-deck approach. But it's not clear how long that can last. And many businesses are also struggling. It's the latest illustration of how COVID-19 keeps upending life more than two years into the pandemic.
“This really does, I think, remind everyone of when COVID-19 first appeared and there were such major disruptions across every part of our normal life,” said Tom Cotter, director of emergency response and preparedness at the global health nonprofit Project HOPE. “And the unfortunate reality is, there’s no way of predicting what will happen next until we get our vaccination numbers – globally – up.”
COVID testing crisis in US means shortages, scams, limited access
America is again facing a COVID-19 testing crisis as many people are struggling to find at-home kits, scammers are profiting off fake rapid tests, and some regions are limiting who can access community testing sites.
Indiana is limiting who is eligible for rapid testing at state and local health department testing sites. San Diego health officials are urging residents to only get tested if they have symptoms. Some New York City testing sites are prioritizing testing teachers to keep schools open. And San Francisco will prioritize testing people with COVID symptoms over asymptomatic people.
Adding to testing woes, the Federal Trade Commission warned Americans this week about fake at-home testing kits "as opportunistic scammers take advantage of the spike in demand."
Royal Caribbean pauses some ship operations amid COVID surge
Royal Caribbean International is pausing operations on several ships because of COVID-19, canceling some sailings and pushing back one ship's return to cruising. While most cruises still haven't been canceled, the CDC advised against cruise travel in the coming weeks. The Royal Caribbean news comes as the Ruby Princess Cruise ship – the same vessel that played host to a devastating coronavirus outbreak in 2020 – reportedly allowed a dozen infected passengers to disembark in San Francisco.
From Nov. 30 to Dec. 14, cruise ships operating in U.S. waters reported 162 cases of COVID-19 to the CDC. From Dec. 15 to Dec. 29, that number jumped to 5,013.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: United States is now averaging more than 700K new COVID cases per day