As COVID-19 gains steam, virus tied to another White House cluster

With cases accelerating quickly—and putting pressure on some hospitals—during the nation's third surge in infections, a top White House official raised eyebrows this weekend when he said the nation couldn't control COVID-19, which has now triggered an outbreak among the vice president's staff.

Weekly numbers set record

Over the past week, the United States has averaged about 68,767 cases a day, the highest yet during the pandemic, according to an analysis by CNBC based on Johns Hopkins data. The country's daily totals topped 83,000 cases on Oct 23 and Oct 24.

Hospitalizations, which typically lag spikes in cases, increased 40% over the past month, and currently about 41,000 Americans are hospitalized with COVID-19 infections, the New York Times reports.

In Utah, the president of the state's hospital association told Gov. Gary Herbert last week that Utah's hospitals are expected to start rationing care in a week or two, given that the state is breaking COVID-19 case records daily, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Meanwhile, Texas cases and hospitalizations have risen to levels seen earlier in August, the Texas Tribune reported. And over the weekend, officials announced they were sending emergency medical personnel and supplies to El Paso, which is experiencing a surge and is establishing an emergency care site at the civic center to take pressure off the hospital system, according to the El Paso Times.

More controversy, cases from White House

Yesterday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told CNN that the United States cannot control the pandemic and that the focus should be on vaccines and therapeutics. The comments—which come in the final days of the presidential campaign—indicate that the White House has given up on efforts to reduce the spread of the virus.

In a separate development, five people in Vice President Mike Pence's circle have tested positive for COVID-19, and both Pence and his wife have tested negative, the Washington Post reported.

Due to the outbreak on his team, Pence isn't expected to preside over a Senate vote tonight to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, CNN reported, noting that the vice president will be campaigning in Minnesota. Also, the White House is planning an outdoor event to celebrate the final vote, but some senators indicated that they are concerned about attending because of the COVID-19 threat.

In other US developments:

  • Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, said yesterday in a Wall Street Journal editorial that it's time for a national mask mandate, because the nation is dangerously behind the curve in tackling the rising spread of the virus. Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, also suggested recently that it might be time for face coverings to be mandatory.

  • Delta Airlines has added 460 people to its no-fly list for refusing to wear masks, ABC News reported.

  • At least 65 US colleges are testing wastewater to monitor coronavirus spread on campuses, using the data to identify trends and adjust testing protocols, NPR reported.

  • The US total today climbed to 8,687,289 cases with 225,580 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

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