El Paso County Medical Examiner & # 39; s Office staff lock up the mobile morgues before moving bodies in bags labeled "Covid" from refrigerated tags to the morgue office while coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is in November El Paso, Texas erupted 23, 2020.
Ivan Pierre Aguirre | Reuters
The United States reported a record 2,800 deaths from Covid-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, the highest number of deaths in a day ever reported.
The United States reported just over 2,600 deaths as early as April 15 in the first phase of the Covid-19 surge this spring. These were mainly located in the northeast and other cities in the country.
Wednesday's dismal record brought other signs that the nationwide outbreak was getting worse. The country reported more than 200,000 cases of the virus on Wednesday, the second highest daily number according to Hopkins data. And more than 100,200 people are currently so infected with the virus that they need medical attention in hospitals, according to the COVID Tracking Project run by journalists from The Atlantic.
However, it has become difficult to interpret coronavirus data after Thanksgiving as states work to resume normal reporting schedules. Therefore, the numbers for a day may be at least partially due to late reporting. However, the trends all point to an outbreak that is getting more severe by the day.
Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday the US is at a "very critical time" with about 90% of hospitals across the country in "hot zones". "
"The reality is December, January and February will be tough times," Redfield said at a US Chamber of Commerce event. "Indeed, I believe they will be the most difficult in the history of public health in this country, largely because of the stress that will put our health system under pressure."
Many hospitals across the country are already exhausted from months of work treating the relentless influx of Covid patients, along with patients who still need medical attention due to other illnesses. Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician and director of the Brown Lifespan Center for Digital Health, said she heard from colleagues across the country about situations similar to "low-income countries" where medical care must be rationed.
"We're running out of beds and we're running out of staff, too," she said. "Our healthcare system is full even during normal times, so adding 100,000 more patients to our existing disease and injury burden is almost unfathomable."
Some health groups, such as the Association of American Medical Colleges, are urging hospitals to prepare for the introduction of "Crisis Standards of Care," which are typically used in severe situations such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks and natural disasters.
With the situation already grave across the country, epidemiologists hold their breath and watch the daily numbers for signs of what the White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, described as "spike after spike" in Covid-19 cases after Thanksgiving.
The CDC on Wednesday urged Americans to postpone their travel plans for the winter vacation, which could exacerbate the outbreak.
"Even if even a small percentage of these travelers were asymptomatically infected, it could result in hundreds of thousands of additional infections spreading from one community to another," said Dr. Cindy Friedman, director of the CDC's travel health department, on a conference call with reporters. "Cases are on the rise and the safest thing is to postpone your vacation trip and stay home."
– CNBC's Nate Rattner contributed to this report.