The United States has reported a new record single-day number of Covid-19 cases, topping more than one million new infections. The highly mutated omicron variant, in combination with delayed case reporting during the holidays, led to a milestone of 1,082,549 new coronavirus cases reported Monday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The record-breaking tally comes after White House chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci said the country was experiencing “almost a vertical increase” in Covid-19 cases.
By comparison, the country was averaging about 70,000 cases a day in early November when the Delta variant was still dominant, reports NPR’s Rachel Treisman. The recent rise in cases could be due in part to a lag in reporting cases and tests over the holidays. Despite the delay, public health officials say cases could still be undercounted, especially with so many Americans testing themselves at home.
The county’s devastating milestone is more than twice the case count seen anywhere else in the world, including when more than 414,00 people were diagnosed with Covid-19 on a single day last spring during India's Delta surge, reports Jinshan Hong for Bloomberg. Omicron is now estimated to account for over 95 percent of cases identified in the U.S. as of January 1, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Officials note that rates of hospitalization and death are rising with new omicron infections, but not nearly as quickly as with previous variants. There are more than 112,941 Americans currently hospitalized with Covid-19, and more than a quarter of ICU beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients. Though Monday was a record-setting day for new infections, there were 1,688 new deaths, down from a record 4,442 last January before vaccines were available.
A major reason fewer people infected with Covid-19 are ending up in hospitals is likely due to widespread inoculation from vaccines. Doctors report that most patients now getting seriously ill from Covid-19 are either unvaccinated or at high risk from other health conditions.
“If you’re vaccinated and boosted, you are highly protected,” from serious illness, Biden said in remarks at the White House Tuesday. “You know, be concerned about omicron, but don’t be alarmed. But if you’re unvaccinated, you have some reason to be alarmed.”
With 35 million Americans still refusing the vaccine, “this continues to be a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” he said.
Though the recent spike in Covid-19 infections isn’t causing the same surge in hospitalizations and deaths as the country saw earlier in the pandemic, omicron's spread has disrupted life across the country—from closed schools and shuttered offices to the breakdown of global supply chains.