Nov 18 (Reuters) - The death toll from COVID-19 in the
United States approached 250,000 on Wednesday, the day after
the country recorded the highest number of victims in nearly
four months, a chilling sign for a healthcare system already
struggling to cope.
On Tuesday, the pandemic claimed 1,596 lives in the United
States, more than on any single day since July 27, contributing
to a total of 248,898 confirmed deaths since the pandemic began,
according to a Reuters tally.
For weeks, health officials and healthcare workers have
warned that hospitals in all regions could soon become
overwhelmed, with widespread community transmission of the virus
evident in many places.
"I'm the most concerned I've been since this pandemic
started," Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of Johns Hopkins Center for
Health Security, told CNN on Wednesday.
Nationwide, the number of patients hospitalized with
COVID-19 topped 75,000 on Tuesday, setting a new record. The
Midwest has become the epicenter, reporting almost a
half-million cases in the week ending on Monday. In Wisconsin,
90.6% of Intensive Care Unit beds were occupied as of Wednesday,
state data showed.
Forty-one U.S. states have reported daily record increases
in COVID-19 cases in November, 20 have registered new all-time
highs in coronavirus-related deaths from day to day, and 26 have
reported new peaks in hospitalizations, according to a Reuters
tally of public health data.
Government officials in at least 18 states, representing
both sides of the U.S. political divide, have issued sweeping
new public health mandates this month. These range from stricter
limits on social gatherings and non-essential businesses to new
requirements for wearing masks in public places.
Even officials who initially bristled at the idea of the
government imposing social restrictions have changed tune as the
virus has spread.
In South Dakota, about 2% of residents currently have
COVID-19, according to state data. The city of Sioux Falls voted
to institute a mask mandate on Tuesday night, a week after Mayor
Paul TenHaken voted the mandate down. TenHaken shifted to
supporting the ordinance after the South Dakota State Medical
Association urged the city council to mandate masks. State
Governor Kristi Noem, a Republican, has continued to oppose
government restrictions to curb COVID-19.
White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday called
the wave of new restrictions an overreach by state and local
"The American people know how to protect their health," she
told Fox News in an interview. "We don't lose our freedom in
this country. We make responsible health decisions as
(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York and Anurag Maan in
Bengaluru; additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Maria
Caspani; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)