World

U.S. tops 12 million confirmed COVID-19 cases

The United States recorded its 12th million COVID-19 case on Saturday, even as millions of Americans were expected to travel for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, ignoring warnings from health officials about furthering the spread of the infectious disease.

Health officials warn of burgeoning wave of infections ahead of Thanksgiving

More than 12 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the U.S. as of Saturday, less than a week before Thanksgiving, capping a series of days with record-breaking infections — with the Midwest experiencing one of the most dramatic increases in cases per capita. (Butch Dill/The Associated Press)

The United States recorded its 12th million COVID-19 case on Saturday, even as millions of Americans were expected to travel for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, ignoring warnings from health officials about furthering the spread of the infectious disease.

More than 12,010,000 cases of the coronavirus were reported, according to a Reuters tally of public health data, capping a series of days with record-breaking infections, with the Midwest experiencing one of the most dramatic increases in cases per capita.

The pandemic has claimed more than 255,000 lives in the U.S. — more than in any other nation — according to the Reuters tally, and the recent escalation has prompted more than 20 states to impose sweeping new restrictions this month to curb the virus.

Reuters data shows the pace of new U.S. infections has quickened, with nearly one million more cases recorded in just the last six days before the latest record. This compares with the eight days it took to get from 10 million cases to 11 million, and the 10 days it took to get from nine million to 10 million.

More than one million people flew through U.S. airports on Friday, according to data from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), fuelling fears of even greater spread of the virus. It was the second-heaviest domestic air traffic day since the start of the pandemic, despite pleas from health officials for Americans to stay home.

"This is the 2nd time since the pandemic passenger volume has surpassed 1 million," TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

Friday marked another milestone in the U.S. as the highest number of new COVID-19 cases was reported — 196,815 infections in a day.

Officials warn against Thanksgiving travel

Health officials have warned that the burgeoning wave of infections could soon overwhelm the health-care system if people do not follow public health guidance, particularly around not traveling and mingling with other households for Thursday's traditional Thanksgiving celebration.

Still, video footage on Twitter showed more than 100 people, wearing masks, crowding departure gates at Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix on Friday. Lines for TSA checkpoints and kiosks at Chicago O'Hare airport were also long on Friday and "reminiscent of pre-pandemic times," local TV station WGN reported.

The number of Thanksgiving air travellers was expected to decline by 47.5 per cent from 2019, but nonetheless, 2.4 million people were forecast to take to the skies, according to a report earlier this month from the American Automobile Association. It said the number travelling by car was expected to fall by only about four per cent.

"For those who are considering making a trip, the majority will go by car, which provides the flexibility to modify holiday travel plans up until the day of departure," AAA senior vice-president Paula Twidale said in a statement.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a "strong recommendation" to Americans to refrain from all kinds of travel over Thanksgiving.

"We're alarmed with the exponential increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths," CDC official Henry Walke told reporters on Thursday.

A person wearing a face mask walks past Christmas decorations in New York City on Saturday. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images)

Seven governors of Midwestern states — Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Michigan — encouraged their residents to heed medical advice over the holidays and not to celebrate Thanksgiving with people outside their households.

In a video message, the governors also referred to the recent announcement from Pfizer that its COVID-19 vaccine is more than 90 per cent effective. Pfizer said it would seek emergency-use authorization of its vaccine from U.S. regulators, the first such application.

"This is great news, but it doesn't mean we can let our guard down," Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.

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