The United States reported its highest daily number of COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday with more than 4,320 fatalities attributed to the virus.
It marked the second time — both this month and since the pandemic’s start — that the US reported more than 4,000 COVID-19 deaths in a single day.
Over the past week, the US has averaged more than 3,300 deaths every day, a jump of more than 217% from mid-November.
The numbers are grim, but to some experts they’re not surprising. They follow COVID-19 case surges — fueled by holiday gatherings — across the country and weeks of record-high hospitalization numbers.
Now more than 131,300 Americans are hospitalized with the virus, according to the COVID-19 Tracking Project — and in some parts of the country, hospitals have reached their breaking point.
Arizona reported a record-high 5,082 hospitalized COVID-19 patients Tuesday and on the same day broke a second record: more than 1,180 patients with the virus in ICU beds. In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards extended an order which keeps COVID-19 mitigation measures in place for nearly another month, saying the state was seeing a “huge spike” in cases and hospitalizations.
Those numbers are also on the rise in college towns as students return for the first semester of 2021.
Full-time enrollment at higher education institutes accounts for more than a quarter of the population in 30 US counties, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Infections increased in 26 of the counties over a week, by an average of 50%. In Williamsburg, Virginia — home to William & Mary — cases nearly tripled over seven days. Cases more than doubled in Whitman County, Washington, home of Washington State University and Albany County, Wyoming, home of University of Wyoming.
And at least 90% of staffed ICU beds are occupied in 10 of the counties, including Mississippi State University’s Oktibbeha County, where nearly all ICU beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients.