The US confirmed 126,480 new coronavirus cases on Friday, a record number for a third day in a row. At the White House, the chief of staff, Mark Meadows, was reported to have tested positive for Covid-19.
On Saturday morning, Johns Hopkins University in Maryland put the total US coronavirus caseload at 9,731,198, with 235,925 deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new daily cases in the US was approaching 100,000 for the first time, while the seven-day rolling average for daily deaths had risen from 772 on 23 October to 911 on Friday. Those numbers were higher in the spring and August.
States recording record daily highs on Friday included Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Utah.
News of Meadows’ test came days after he appeared with Donald Trump at a White House event at which numerous people did not wear masks. The president himself was previously treated for Covid-19, spending three days in hospital, after attending a White House event at which Covid mitigation measures were not enforced.
Members of Trump’s family, senior aides and leading Republicans have all contracted the virus after attending events in Washington and on the campaign trail. On Friday, Bloomberg News said numerous Trump campaign aides had also tested positive.
Last weekend, Dr Anthony Fauci, the senior US public health expert, posted a dire warning about the coming winter and the ongoing pandemic.
“We’re in for a whole lot of hurt,” Fauci told the Washington Post, angering the White House. “It’s not a good situation. All the stars are aligned in the wrong place as you go into the fall and winter season, with people congregating at home indoors. You could not possibly be positioned more poorly.”
On Friday, across the US, states posted record numbers.
In Illinois, faced with 20,000 new cases in two days, JB Pritzker, the governor, said a stay-at-home order was possible if the spread was not slowed – just before his office announced that he was self-isolating after being exposed to the virus for a third time.
With a record 10,374 new infections reported on Friday and 10,000 deaths passed this week, Pritzker was asked if he would order people to stay home, as was required by Illinois and many other states in the spring.
“We’re in a bad situation [but] I’m not looking at the broader mitigation of stay-at-home … as in something I would do in the coming days or a week,” he said. “But I can’t guarantee you what it looks like two weeks from now or three weeks. I just don’t know.”
Kentucky reported 2,302 new cases and 10 more deaths on Friday. More than 1,000 people were hospitalised. Governor Andy Beshear urged 80 counties classified as “red zones” to follow state emergency recommendations. Last week, 68 counties were on the red-zone list.
“I know we’ve been in this fight for so long that it’s easy to get numb to the scary headlines and high case numbers,” Beshear said. “That’s normal. It’s human nature. But you have to understand this is the most dangerous Covid-19 has ever been in the commonwealth and it is leading to more of our fellow Kentuckians becoming sick, being hospitalised and dying.”
Kansas added a record 5,418 new cases over two days as hospitals warned of serious strain. The increases brought the state’s Covid case total to 97,633, up 5.9% from Wednesday. The state added 79 deaths to bring its total to 1,166. Deaths have more than doubled since mid-September.
Kansas’s health department head, Dr Lee Norman, said cases “are just skyrocketing” because people are spending more time indoors, attending public events and family gatherings without being diligent about masks or social distancing. He said he was worried cases will spike again from Thanksgiving get-togethers, while many officials “haven’t done anything” to check the surge.
In Texas, a district judge upheld an order from El Paso county’s top elected official shutting down businesses while the region fights an alarming surge in cases. The decision from Judge Bill Moody of El Paso’s 34th district court came as federal military medical teams deployed to the border region, at the request of the state.
El Paso county judge Ricardo Samaniego ordered a two-week shutdown of non-essential activities late last week. In making his decision, Moody pointed out that during the Spanish flu pandemic in the early 20th century, city and county officials had authority to respond as they “thought was necessary to protect the health and financial interests of their individual communities”.
Ken Paxton, Texas’s attorney general, has argued that Samaniego’s order is illegal because it goes against Governor Greg Abbott’s statewide order to reopen businesses. Chris Hilton, an attorney with the Texas attorney general’s office, said the state would appeal against Moody’s order.
El Paso joins 10 other Texas cities, including Houston, San Antonio and multiple communities in the Rio Grande Valley, to receive aid from the Department of Defense at the request of state officials.