The United States reported over 94,000 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, the highest daily caseload since the epidemic broke out in the country in March, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 8,571,941 on Saturday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The deaths brought by the highly contagious disease rose to 224,771, figures from the university's Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) showed.
Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, warned in an TV interview that the daily new cases could exceed 100,000 and deaths would continue to surge as "people are just tired of the virus, even though the virus is not tired with them."
Analysts said the coming winter would deteriorate the situation and bring the daily death load to about 2,000.
The hospitalization data were reported to have been flawed in the midwestern state of Missouri since Tuesday. Since Tuesday, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Service's coronavirus dashboard has posted a message that the total number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 has been underreported since Oct 17.
The data collecting flaw has likely impacted many other states as they rely on the same data collection system of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The number of reported intensive care unit patients in Kansas had decreased from 80 to one without explanation, said the COVID Tracking Project in a blog post.
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Sixteen U.S. states also hit one-day records for new infections of the virus that causes COVID-19 on Friday, including five considered key in the Nov. 3 presidential election: Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Health experts have not pinpointed the reason for the rise but have cited such factors as colder temperatures driving people inside, fatigue with COVID-19 precautions and students returning to schools and colleges.
The latest estimate by the widely cited University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation also reflects fears that cold winter weather will drive Americans indoors, where the virus is more likely to spread.
"We are heading into a very substantial fall/winter surge," said IHME director Chris Murray, who co-led the research.
The number of possible deaths could drop by 130,000 if 95% of Americans would cover their faces, the IHME said, echoing a recommendation by Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
VACCINES ON THE HORIZON
"The good news on the horizon is that vaccines look promising," Fauci told CNN in an interview. "And hopefully by the time we get to the end of November, the beginning of December we will have shown that we have at least one or two - and maybe more but at least two - vaccines that are safe and effective."
Health Secretary Alex Azar attributed the increase in cases nationwide to the behavior of individuals, saying household gatherings have become a "major vector of disease spread."
Asked about an assertion by President Donald Trump during Thursday night's presidential debate that the United States is "rounding the turn" on the pandemic, Azar told CNN that Trump was trying to provide hope to Americans waiting for a vaccine.
On Thursday there were 916 reported fatalities in the United States, a day after the country recorded over 1,200 new deaths for the first time since August.
Eighteen states have reported their highest daily numbers of hospitalized COVID-19 patients since the pandemic started and on Friday, the number of COVID-19 patients in U.S. hospitals climbed to a two-month high.
There are now more than 41,000 hospitalized patients with coronavirus across the country, up 34% from Oct. 1, according to a Reuters analysis.
North Dakota, with 887 new cases on both Thursday and Friday, remains the hardest-hit state, based on new cases per capita, followed by South Dakota, Montana and Wisconsin, according to a Reuters tally.
In Tennessee, hospitals in Nashville said they have experienced a 40% increase in patients admitted for COVID-19.
Dr. Jeff Pothof, an emergency medicine physician at University of Wisconsin Health in Madison, expressed worry about a lack of compliance with public health measures in the state, where some groups have challenged Democratic Governor Tony Evers' COVID-19 restrictions in court.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a curfew on nonessential businesses from 10 p.m. on Friday. She warned residents to avoid social gatherings of more than six people and end all gatherings by 10 p.m.
Nearly 2,500 people were hospitalized in Illinois, the state's top public health official, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, told a news conference.
The Northeast remains the one region of the county without a significant surge in cases, but infections are trending higher. Boston public schools shifted to online-only learning this week.