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US coronavirus cases top 12 million. An expert says spread is now 'faster' and 'broader' than ever

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem says there is no plan to implement a mask mandate as the state struggles with the nation's highest coronavirus positivity rate. CNN's Gary Tuchman reports from inside an intensive care unit.

Posted: Nov 22, 2020 7:51 PM
Updated: Nov 22, 2020 7:51 PM

The number of US coronavirus cases surpassed 12 million Saturday -- an increase of more than 1 million cases in less than a week.

At least 12,085,389 cases have been confirmed, according to Johns Hopkins University data, and 255,823 Americans have died.

It's another horrific milestone in a month full of devastating Covid-19 records in the country. November already accounts for almost a quarter of all Covid-19 cases and 9% of deaths.

Almost every state has reported a rapid surge in cases, and nationwide numbers have been climbing much faster than ever before -- with the country reporting a staggering 2.9 million infections since the beginning of the month.

On Friday, more than 195,500 new infections were reported -- the country's highest for a single day, and far beyond what the nation was seeing just weeks ago. The highest number of single-day cases during the country's summer surge was a little more than 77,100 in July, Johns Hopkins University data shows.

The US on Friday also recorded its highest number of Covid-19 patients in hospitals on a given day: just over 82,100 -- according to the COVID Tracking Project.

Rising death rates typically follow rising hospitalizations. In just the past week, more than 10,000 US deaths have been reported -- nearly double the weekly death toll of just a month ago.

LIVE UPDATES: The latest on the coronavirus pandemic

The numbers offer just a glimpse at the devastation the pandemic has unleashed across American communities, with some cities ordering mobile morgues to handle the excess deaths, while hospitals in other parts have reported overwhelmed ICUs and exhausted staff.

In Texas, a team of 36 National Guard personnel were sent to El Paso to help the city cope with the surge of Covid-19 deaths, the Texas Division of Emergency Management said Saturday, and El Paso has found a central location for an additional morgue, according to Mayor Dee Margo.

Many are traveling for Thanksgiving despite CDC's recommendation against it

The virus is still running unabated in the US and the rate of rising cases is now "dramatically" different from what it was before, White House Coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx told CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

"This is faster. It's broader. And what worries me, it could be longer," she said.

Dr. Esther Choo, professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health & Science University, said the real case count is likely to be "multitudes" higher than the 12 million reported because not enough people are getting tested.

Choo said she is particularly concerned by how quickly new cases are accelerating.

"So many states have test positivity rates above 20%, which means that we are vastly lagging behind in our confirmed cases," she told CNN's Erica Hill.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week urged against Thanksgiving travel, and against celebrating with anyone outside your own household, because cases are soaring. But health officials suspect many will visit family and friends and further spread the virus -- many times, without knowing it.

The CDC says in new guidance this week that more than 50% of Covid-19 infections are spread by people who exhibit no symptoms.

"I would say to those who are homesick...just hold the line," Dr. Chris Pernell, a public health physician at New Jersey's Newark University Hospital, told CNN on Saturday. "Hold on a little bit longer until we can get to the point in the nation where we know that the pandemic isn't accelerating. Otherwise it could be deadly."

AAA said it anticipates at least a 10% drop from 2019 in Thanksgiving travel -- the largest one-year decrease since 2008. But that still would be about 50 million travelers, about 95% of whom would go by automobile, AAA predicted.

Several people at Washington's Reagan National Airport told CNN this week that they felt safe enough to fly.

"I understand the risk that I'm taking, but I want to see my family," Yasmine Dehghani, who was flying to Connecticut, said.

With people increasingly getting sick, and others without symptoms seeking reassurance ahead of the holiday, long lines are forming outside testing sites around the country, appointments are filling up, and commercial labs are warning that their capacities are being stretched.

Health experts, however, stress a negative test result will not guarantee a person isn't carrying the virus to a Thanksgiving gathering, because a test won't necessarily pick up on fresh infections. An already-infected person could test negative, travel to a dinner days later and then spread the disease.

People who want to attend an indoor Thanksgiving dinner with a different household, experts have told CNN, should have planned to quarantine 14 days beforehand.

"If you do that properly, you don't need a test," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, chief of the infectious diseases division at Massachusetts General Hospital, told CNN.

What rising cases and hospitalizations mean for the country

The rising numbers have brought some hospital systems to their knees and prompted state leaders to take action to help curb the spread.

At least 24 hospital leaders warned the American Hospital Association they are experiencing staffing shortages, Nancy Foster, the association's vice president for quality and patient safety policy, said. Those concerns have been raised in states including Texas, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and North and South Dakota, all of which have recently seen infections climbing, she added.

And those shortages are hard to fix when pulling from a workforce of health care employees "justifiably experiencing a significant emotional and physical toll due to the impact of the pandemic," Foster said in a statement to CNN.

And in rural parts of the country, the challenge is often greater.

Of about 2,000 hospitals considered to be rural, about 1,700 have 50 beds or fewer and about 1,300 of them have 25 beds or fewer, according to Tom Morris, associate administrator for rural health policy in the federal government's Health Resources and Services Administration.

"People in hospitals will not do well when they're as crowded as they are becoming right now," Choo said.

"We're not talking about large facilities. We're not talking about a lot of ICU capacity," Morris said during the National Institutes of Health rural health seminar." In a lot of these hospitals, they're able to offer an ICU of one of two beds."

Responding to the crisis, multiple governors this week announced new measures to combat the surging infections and relieve strained hospital systems.

California's governor issued a limited stay-at-home order for the counties in the state's most restrictive tier, saying nonessential work and gatherings must stop between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Minnesota's governor announced a "four-week dial back," which among other measures placed new limits on social gatherings and ordered bars and restaurants to takeout and delivery services only.

A statewide curfew went into effect Thursday in Ohio, lasting from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. The Navajo Nation, which reported its highest number of daily cases Friday, is also currently under a "stay-at-home lockdown" that began earlier this week.

There is good news, too

The good news? Experts say promising vaccines are on the horizon and until then, there are things the American public can do to help hold down the virus.

Those include wearing a mask, social distancing, avoiding crowds and washing hands regularly. The University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projected this week about 65,000 lives could be saved by March 1 if 95% of Americans wore masks.

And according to new research published Friday by the CDC, masks worked to slow the spread of the virus in parts of Kansas. The state's governor signed an executive order on July 2 that made masks mandatory in public places. The majority of the state's counties opted out of the order, but about two dozen opted in or created their own mask mandate.

The CDC and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment looked at case trends the month before the mandate and for the month after the mandate and found that in the 24 counties that required people to wear masks in public, there was a net decrease of 6% in cases. Meanwhile, in counties without the mandate, the disease continued to surge, with a net increase in cases of about 100%.

And soon, there could be more reinforcements in the battle against Covid-19.

The US Food and Drug Administration on Saturday authorized Regeneron's antibody cocktail to treat Covid-19 in high-risk patients with mild to moderate symptoms. It is one of the treatments President Donald Trump received when he was hospitalized.

On Friday, Pfizer and BioNTech submitted an application to the FDA for emergency use authorization for their Covid-19 vaccine candidate. Earlier this week, Pfizer said a final analysis of the Phase 3 trial of the vaccine showed it was 95% effective in preventing infections, even in older adults, and caused no serious safety concerns.

While the application for EUA is "encouraging," the Infectious Diseases Society of America stressed Friday that a transparent review of Pfizer's data is still needed.

And if the vaccine is given the green light, "clinical trials and data collection must continue," Dr. Barbara Alexander, president of IDSA, said in the statement.

"Measures that include wearing masks, frequent hand washing, maintaining physical distance and restricting the size of gatherings will remain crucial," the statement said. "Finally, new federal funding must be provided for widespread, fair and equitable vaccine distribution in addition to campaigns to build vaccine confidence."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 319704

Reported Deaths: 7369
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22276267
Hinds20677421
Harrison18407317
Rankin13880282
Jackson13689248
Madison10249224
Lee10056176
Jones8464167
Forrest7827153
Lauderdale7260242
Lowndes6509150
Lamar634888
Lafayette6310121
Washington5420137
Bolivar4837133
Panola4669110
Oktibbeha466098
Pearl River4604147
Marshall4573105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc425373
Union415777
Monroe4155135
Neshoba4061179
Lincoln4008112
Hancock386687
Leflore3515125
Tate342486
Sunflower339491
Pike3369111
Alcorn325972
Scott320174
Yazoo314171
Adams307486
Itawamba305178
Copiah299966
Coahoma298784
Simpson298189
Tippah291968
Prentiss283861
Leake271974
Marion271280
Covington267283
Wayne264442
Grenada264087
George252051
Newton248663
Tishomingo231568
Winston229981
Jasper222148
Attala215073
Chickasaw210559
Holmes190374
Clay187854
Stone187833
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174132
Yalobusha167840
Smith164034
Walthall135347
Greene131833
Lawrence131024
Montgomery128643
Noxubee128034
Perry127138
Amite126342
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Jefferson Davis108033
Tunica108027
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96629
Franklin85023
Quitman82216
Choctaw79118
Wilkinson69532
Jefferson66228
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 548323

Reported Deaths: 11288
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson809531565
Mobile42066826
Madison35663525
Tuscaloosa26162458
Shelby25595254
Montgomery25081612
Baldwin21839313
Lee16265176
Calhoun14718325
Morgan14626285
Etowah14171363
Marshall12449230
Houston10764288
Elmore10295213
Limestone10182157
St. Clair10160251
Cullman9941201
Lauderdale9596249
DeKalb8967189
Talladega8458184
Walker7335280
Autauga7230113
Blount6944139
Jackson6922113
Colbert6414140
Coffee5627127
Dale4929114
Russell454941
Chilton4472116
Franklin431083
Covington4273122
Tallapoosa4136155
Escambia401780
Chambers3726124
Dallas3607156
Clarke352961
Marion3242106
Pike314078
Lawrence3129100
Winston283572
Bibb268464
Geneva257581
Marengo250665
Pickens236862
Barbour234659
Hale226878
Butler224071
Fayette218162
Henry193843
Cherokee187245
Randolph187044
Monroe179341
Washington170439
Macon162951
Clay160159
Crenshaw155657
Cleburne153244
Lamar146537
Lowndes142054
Wilcox127030
Bullock124242
Conecuh113430
Coosa111429
Perry108626
Sumter105732
Greene93534
Choctaw62025
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Columbus
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We continue to monitor a tropical disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico. This will be in heavy rainfall two locations across the southeast over the course of the weekend, and flooding rainfall could be in tow as well. Things are looking better for Father’s Day itself, thankfully.
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