Americans defied pleas from state and local officials to stay home for the Thanksgiving holiday in the face of the surging coronavirus pandemic, triggering fresh warnings from health officials with the release of vaccines still weeks away.
US President-elect Joe Biden joined in the calls for safety, urging people to forgo big family gatherings, wear protective masks and maintain social distancing.
“I know we can and we will beat this virus,” Biden said in a speech delivered in a near-empty Wilmington, Delaware, theatre to a handful of staffers and reporters wearing masks and sitting inside socially distanced circles on the floor. Biden did not wear a mask.
“Life is going to return to normal. I promise you. This will happen. This will not last forever,” said Biden, a 78-year-old Democrat.
Deaths from COVID-19 surpassed 2 000 in a single day for the first time since May on Tuesday and hospitalisations reached a record of more than 89 000 on Wednesday as the country recorded 2.3 million new infections in the past two weeks.
Spiraling infections typically result in a rising death toll weeks later. Coronavirus deaths reached 2 157 on Tuesday – one person every 40 seconds – with another 170 000 people infected, as millions of Americans traveled for Thanksgiving.
Nearly 1 million passengers a day have been screened at airport security checkpoints for the past week, with Sunday’s total of 1.047 million being the highest number since the early days of the pandemic in mid-March.
US COVID-19 vaccinations could take place in early to mid-December: