The United States surpassed 4,000 daily coronavirus deaths on Thursday, marking the highest number seen since the outbreak began. According to Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. tallied 4,085 deaths, contributing to the 365,346 total fatalities recorded since the beginning of last year.
The U.S. also added over 274,703 cases on Thursday, with a testing positivity ratio pinned at 13.60%. California leads the country in new cases reported, with Texas, Florida and New York all experiencing spikes of their own.
The data doesn’t mention Arizona, which public health experts warned this week has become “the hot spot of the world.”
“It’s way worse than July already, and it’s going to continue to get worse. We’re probably two weeks behind L.A. in terms of our situation,” Will Humble, head of the Arizona Public Health Association, told the Associated Press.
The state reportedly has the worst coronavirus diagnosis rate in the country, with one out of every 119 people in the state testing positive in the past week.
Experts have warned that the next few weeks may be the most severe the country has seen due to virus spread during holiday travel and gatherings. In Los Angeles County, where emergency services crews have been instructed to ration oxygen supply and avoid bringing patients with low chance of survival to the hospital, has reported that a person is dying every 8 minutes due to COVID-19.
“Folks are gasping for breath. Folks look like they’re drowning when they are in bed right in front of us,” said Dr. Jeffrey Chien, an emergency room physician at Santa Clara Valley Regional Medical Center, urging people to do their part to help slow the spread. “I’m begging everyone to help us out because we aren’t the front line. We’re the last line.”
The post-holiday surge also comes at a time when a new coronavirus variant from the U.K. threatens to create an additional spread, with infectious disease experts warning that the mutation is highly transmissible, and may even overtake the original COVID-19 virus within a matter of weeks.
More than 50 cases of the variant have been detected in the U.S., with some concerned about how it may impact vaccine efficacy. At least one study from Pfizer suggests that the vaccine will remain effective against the variant, with the company previously touting the flexibility of the mRNA technology should the need for a tweak arise.
Vaccines are increasingly becoming a contention point between medical professionals and political leaders, as slow rollout among many states is seeing millions of doses go unused. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened to levy fines on hospitals not moving quickly enough through the allocation, while Mayor Bill De Blasio called for the state to allow seniors and front-line workers to receive their first dose.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.