Expert predicts US could soon hit 200,000 daily coronavirus cases as the country tops 10 million infections

A Texas Hospital's Icu Department As Cases Near 10 Million In U.s.
Medical staff members wear protective gear while working at the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas, U.S., on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020. Close to 10 million Americans have been diagnosed with Covid-19 in the past 10 months, and with the start of winter just a month away, and the public increasingly likely to spend more time cooped up inside, the virus shows few signs of slowing down. Photographer: Go Nakamura/Bloomberg via Getty Images

After reporting 100,000 new coronavirus infections seven days in a row, the US has now surpassed a total of more than 10 million cases since the start of the pandemic — far more than any other country.

And that number will likely keep rapidly climbing, one expert told CNN.

“We are watching cases increase substantially in this country far beyond, I think, what most people ever thought could happen,” Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Monday. Osterholm has been named a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s Transition Covid-19 Advisory Board.

“It will not surprise me if in the next weeks we see over 200,000 new cases a day,” he added.

The country’s seven-day average of new daily cases was 119,238 on Monday — more than three times higher than it was around mid-September, when it was at a post-summer-surge low.

But it’s not just the rising number of infections that is alarming. On Monday, the US had more than 59,200 people hospitalized nationwide, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

That’s the country’s highest total number since July 25, and not far from the nation’s pandemic peak of 59,940 set on April 15.

And as more people are infected and more are hospitalized, more American deaths will likely be recorded daily. Last week saw five days in a row with more than 1,000 Covid-19 deaths — the first time that’s happened since August.

More than 238,000 people have died since the start of the pandemic in the US, according to Johns Hopkins University. Another 110,000 or more deaths are projected in the next two months, according to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Vaccine will be available for vulnerable people by end of December, Azar says

A vaccine should be ready for most highly vulnerable Americans by the end of December, and all Americans by the end of March to early April, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told NBC’s “Today” show Tuesday.

Azar’s comments came a day after drugmaker Pfizer announced its Covid-19 vaccine appears to be more than 90% effective, based on early data.

“The timeline is Pfizer will be producing and delivering to us approximately 20 million doses of vaccine each month, starting at the end of this month in November,” Azar said, adding that a different company, Moderna, is already producing its vaccine candidate, too.

“We have anticipated that we will have enough vaccine by the end of December to have vaccinated our most vulnerable citizens and nursing homes and otherwise; and by the end of January enough for all health care workers and first responders; and enough for all Americans by the end of March to early April to have general vaccination programs,” Azar said.

The distribution of the company’s two-dose vaccine will be a “logistical challenge,” Dr. John Burkhardt, Pfizer’s vice president of Global Drug Safety Research and Development, said Monday. That’s because the shot needs to be stored in extremely low temperatures, far below the capacity of standard freezers.

“There’s a whole suite of very experienced and talented people at Pfizer who are solely working on this,” he said.

Antibody treatment given emergency approval

Hours after Monday’s announcement that a Covid-19 vaccine candidate appeared promising, the Food and Drug Administration on Monday said it has given emergency approval for a treatment.

The FDA on Monday said it had issued an emergency use authorization for Eli Lilly and Co.’s monoclonal antibody therapy to treat mild to moderate coronavirus infections in adults and children.

The single antibody treatment, called bamlanivimab, must be infused in a hospital or other health care setting. It is the first monoclonal antibody to be authorized for use in treating coronavirus. The idea is to kick-start an immune response against infection.

“Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful antigens such as viruses. Bamlanivimab is a monoclonal antibody that is specifically directed against the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, designed to block the virus’ attachment and entry into human cells,” the FDA said in a statement.

The emergency authorization “provides health care professionals on the frontline of this pandemic with another potential tool in treating Covid-19 patients,” Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni, acting director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in the statement. “We will continue to evaluate new data on the safety and efficacy of bamlanivimab as they become available.”

FDA authorization was based on a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in October. It found the treatment seemed to lower the risk of hospitalization and ease some symptoms in a small number of patients with mild to moderate cases of Covid-19.

Hospitals at ‘brink’ of hitting capacity

As of Monday, 44 states accumulated at least 10% more Covid-19 cases in the last week than the week before that, according to Johns Hopkins data.

The rising numbers have begun taking their toll on American communities.

In Texas, the hard-hit county of El Paso has six mobile morgues and has asked for four more trailers, County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said Monday. That comes as the state nears a million infections since the pandemic’s start.

In Ohio, all parts of the state are affected by an “unprecedented spike” in hospitalized patients, said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, the incoming chief medical officer for the state’s health department.

“Every county in the state is feeling the brunt of rising Covid-19 hospitalizations,” Vanderhoff said. “If we don’t control the spread of the virus and our case numbers, we won’t be able to continue caring for the acutely ill without postponing important, but less urgent care.”

And among the issues that are concerning officials — not just in Ohio, but across the nation — are the strained and exhausted staff that are taking care of the surging number of patients.

“We’re exhausting the available supply of trained personnel,” Vanderhoff said. “They can’t escape the rising numbers of Covid-19 numbers in their communities.”

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said the state’s hospital capacity is shrinking and went on to declare a state of emergency and a statewide mask mandate Monday.

“They are really at the brink of not being able to take any more people … particularly in our intensive care units,” the governor said Monday, speaking on the state’s shrinking hospital capacity.

“We just don’t have rooms that have got doctors and nurses that can provide the health care.”