Written by Mitch Smith, Richard Pérez-Peña, Karen Zraick and Ron DePasquale
Governors and public health officials across the United States are pleading with Americans to change their behavior and prepare for a long winter as the country shatters record after record for coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.
Both records were broken yet again Friday, as more than 181,100 new cases were reported nationwide, and on Saturday at least 121,000 new cases were recorded. The seven-day average of new daily cases is more than 140,000, with upward trends in 49 states. Some 30 states added more cases in the last week than in any other seven-day period.
With more than 1,017,000 cases added since Nov. 7 — the first time that more than 1 million cases were reported in a seven-day period — that means that roughly one in every 323 people in the United States was reported to have tested positive in the last week.
The virus has also killed more than 1,000 Americans a day in the past week, a toll that would shock the nation, were it not for the fact that twice as many people were dying daily during a stretch in April, when doctors knew less about how to treat COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Wyoming reported 17 new deaths Saturday; Oklahoma 23; Montana 36 and South Dakota 53, all single-day records.
On Saturday, New Jersey, West Virginia, Maryland, Minnesota, Indiana, Utah, Montana and Alaska all set single-day records for new cases.
North Dakota also hit a single-day record Saturday, announcing 2,270 new cases. In a reversal, the state’s governor, Doug Burgum, announced several measures late Friday, including a mask mandate, a limit on indoor dining of 50% capacity or 150 people and a suspension of high school winter sports and extracurricular activities until Dec. 14. The state has critically understaffed hospitals and the highest rates of new cases and deaths per person in the nation.
In the spring, North Dakota was one of a handful of states that never entered a lockdown, and Burgum had for weeks resisted any new orders, emphasizing personal responsibility instead of requirements such as a mask mandate.
But the state’s situation has rapidly deteriorated: Over the past week, it has averaged 1,334 cases per day, an increase of 54% from the average two weeks earlier, and deaths are climbing fast. Hospitals are so overwhelmed that Monday, Burgum angered the state nurses union by announcing that medical workers who test positive could stay on the job to treat COVID-19 patients as long as the workers show no symptoms.
In New Mexico on Friday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the nation’s most sweeping statewide measure of the fall season, issuing a two-week “stay at home” order to begin Monday. She asked people to shelter in place except for essential trips and said nonessential businesses and nonprofits must cease in-person activities.
Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon issued orders Friday to place the state in a partial lockdown for two weeks, shuttering gyms, halting restaurant dining and mandating that social gatherings have no more than six people. Brown, along with the governors of California and Washington, also urged residents to avoid all nonessential interstate travel in the days ahead.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, appeared on “CBS This Morning” on Friday to repeat his pleas to Americans to take the virus seriously.
“If we do the things that are simple public health measures, that soaring will level and start to come down,” he said. “You add that to the help of a vaccine, we can turn this around. It is not futile.”
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