The US has recorded new records for Covid infections and hospitalisations, with fears they will not slow in the run-up to Christmas.
The number of people in hospital passed 100,000 for the first time, a figure that has doubled since early November, Covid Tracking Project data showed.
Also on Wednesday new cases rose by a record 195,695. The daily death toll of 2,733 was also close to a new high.
Infections are closing in on 14 million, with more than 264,000 deaths.
These numbers have continued to soar in recent weeks, with around a million new infections reported every week in November. – equivalent to 99 every minute.
In response to surging numbers, US authorities have warned that the country’s healthcare system faces an unprecedented strain this winter.
“The reality is that December, January and February are going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation,” said Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
California, Texas and Florida – the three most populous US states – are among the worst-affected areas of the country, and have each registered more than one million cases.
In the city of Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti issued an emergency order for residents to stay home with immediate affect, following an unprecedented surge of infections.
A similar order is already in place in Los Angeles county – the current epicentre of America’s outbreak – where some hospitals are already approaching full capacity. Authorities reported 5,987 cases on Tuesday, bringing the county’s total to 414,185.