Health

US reports nearly 1m COVID-19 cases in a day, setting global record

The number of hospitalised COVID-19 patients has risen
nearly 50% in the last week and now exceeds 100,000, a Reuters analysis showed,
the first time that threshold has been reached since the winter surge a year
ago.

Overall, the United States has seen a daily average of
486,000 cases over the last week, a rate that has doubled in seven days and far
outstrips that of any other country. The record of 978,856 new infections on
Monday includes some cases from Saturday and Sunday, when many states do not
report.

The average number of deaths per day has remained fairly
steady throughout December and into early January at about 1,300, according to
a Reuters tally, though deaths typically lag behind cases and hospitalisations.

Omicron is appeared to be far more easily transmitted than
previous iterations of the virus, though the World Health Organization said on
Tuesday that evidence thus far suggests the variant is causing less severe
illness.

Nevertheless, public health officials have warned that the
sheer volume of omicron cases threatens to overwhelm hospitals, some of which
are already struggling to handle a wave of COVID-19 patients.

Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Ohio and Washington, DC, have
reported record numbers of hospitalised COVID patients in recent days.

The unrelenting surge has prompted more than 3,200 schools
to close their buildings this week, according to Burbio, a site that tracks
school disruptions. Schools that have remained open are facing staff shortages
and renewed concerns about virus spread.

In Boston, where more than 54,000 students returned to class
on Tuesday following the holiday break, Superintendent of Schools Brenda
Cassellius told reporters there were 1,000 staff members out, including 461
teachers and 52 bus drivers.

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“It does make for a difficult start to the day,”
she said.

In Chicago, the teachers union objected to Monday’s return
to schools, saying the district needs stricter protocols such as required
testing. Teachers were expected to vote on Tuesday on whether they support
working remotely starting on Wednesday.

The Biden administration has continued to emphasise
widespread vaccinations and boosters as the best way to protect against severe
infections.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday
recommended shortening the interval between Pfizer-BioNTech’s, second COVID-19
vaccine dose and the booster shot to five months from six, a day after the Food
and Drug Administration made a similar move.

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