Coronavirus cases have increased in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam over the past 14 days, the latest NBC News data showed Tuesday.
And in a dozen of those states — Vermont, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Iowa, Ohio, Colorado, Michigan, Nebraska, Kansas, Pennsylvania and New York — infections have spiked in the last two weeks, meaning there has been a 100 percent or more increase in confirmed cases over 14 days.
The White House coronavirus task force bluntly stated in its latest weekly report that there is "now aggressive, unrelenting, expanding broad community spread across the country, reaching most counties, without evidence of improvement but rather, further deterioration."
The task force report, obtained by NBC News, warned that current efforts to stop the spread "are inadequate and must be increased to flatten the curve" and that the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday has the potential to "amplify transmission considerably."
With so many new cases, hospitals across the country — and the doctors treating the deluge of new patients — were reaching the breaking point.
“Every day, we seem to break our record for total number of new patients,” Dr. Jeff Pothof, University of Wisconsin Hospital emergency room doctor and chief quality officer, said on MSNBC. “We’re all tired. Everyone is tired. We’re all doing our best. Medicine is a team sport, but we need some help. Things are not going well for us.”
In other coronavirus news:
- With President Donald Trump still refusing to concede his apparent election loss to Joe Biden, the CEOs of the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association wrote a letter to the president urging his administration to “work closely with the Biden transition team to share all critical information related to Covid-19.” Their letter came a day after President-elect Biden told NBC’s Geoff Bennett that “more people may die” if the Trump administration continues to obstruct the smooth transfer of power.
- So far the Trump Administration has not told Biden's coronavirus team “where the supplies are, how much of it the federal government has bought, how they might allocate it and what models they’re using," Dr. Nicole Lurie, who served at the Department of Health and Human Services under former President Barack Obama, told NBC News.
- The mental health of the millions of Americans who lost their jobs due to the pandemic in being threatened by long-term unemployment. "I think it's pushing the edge of what people are able to handle," Ofer Sharone, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said.
- With potential lockdowns looming, the nation's major grocery store chains such as Kroger and Publix have started to limit in-store and online purchases of toilet paper, cleaning supplies, paper towels and other pandemic staples to reduce stress on supply chains.
- There will be no Mardi Gras parades next year in New Orleans due to the pandemic, local media reported.
- A wedding earlier this month near Spokane, Washington attended by some 300 people has been linked to at least 17 new cases of coronavirus, the Grant County Health District reported.
- Country legend Dolly Parton's research fund helped bankroll the development of the Moderna vaccine.
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont echoed Pothof in a CNBC interview.
“My worry is going to be hospital personnel," Lamont said. "That's something we don't have as much control over, and last time we could borrow from states that had low infection rates. Today, there are no states with low infection rates.”
In Cleveland, there were so many new infections reported over the weekend that city workers could not count them all in time for the Monday briefing.
“The City of Cleveland is experiencing an unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases, unlike anything yet reported during this pandemic,” the city said in a statement.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said with the pandemic accelerating he has no choice but to impose new restrictions.
“We are serious about it, we have been serious," Kenney, a Democrat, told MSNBC. "We have slipped back a little bit, we got people not wearing masks as much as they should. We are in the 70 percent, but we should be in the 90s, so we really have to bear down now and get through this long dark corner.”
But Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican and Trump ally who has since the beginning of the crisis been reluctant to impose any coronavirus restrictions, has ruled out any more lockdowns even though his state has reported nearly 890,000 infections (third highest in the country) and 17,774 deaths (fourth-highest in the country).
Currently, the U.S. leads the world with 11.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 248,000 fatalities, NBC News figures show.
While two promising Covid-19 vaccines are still months away from widespread distribution, Dr. Anthony Fauci said there is still a long winter ahead and Americans need to bear down and continue wearing masks and avoid taking part in the large indoor gatherings that have been accelerating the number of infections.
“We don't want the extraordinary success of these two vaccines to get people to be complacent,” Fauci said on CNN. “I've often said help is on the way, but help is not here yet."
In Chicago, where strict restrictions were reimposed Monday to counter the alarming rise in new cases, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Americans have to step up and do the right thing.
“We understand that people are sick and tired, but death is real, and it is on the horizon for us if we don't dig down and do more,” Lightfoot said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “So we are urging people to stay home, to not be in large crowds, to wear face coverings, and really take responsibility for their own lives.”
Those same recommendations were in the White House coronavirus task force report that NBC News obtained.
But that message continued to be undermined by Dr. Scott Atlas, one of Trump’s top pandemic advisers, who has been criticized for, among other things, peddling misinformation about herd immunity and making false claims about the effectiveness of masks at stopping the spread of the coronavirus.
After appearing to encourage large Thanksgiving family gatherings during a Monday evening interview on Fox News, Atlas returned to the cable network and the “Brian Kilmeade Show” on Tuesday during which he said masks are not necessary for children.
Never mind that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the world’s top public health experts say masks protect both the wearers and everybody else from infection.
“We’re creating a generation, by the way, of neurotic children wearing masks when they have very little, if any, significant risk from this,” Atlas said. “You know, I mean, the country’s off the rails, I tried to get it back on the rails."
Unlike Fauci, Atlas is not an expert on infectious diseases. He is a radiologist and on leave from his post as a senior fellow at Stanford University’s conservative Hoover Institution.
“Dr. Atlas has expressed views that are inconsistent with the university’s approach in response to the pandemic,” Stanford University said in a tweet. “Dr. Atlas’s statements reflect his personal views, not those of the Hoover Institution of the university.”
Trump has been called the world’s biggest spreader of coronavirus misinformation. He has also been accused of politicizing the use of masks by often refusing to wear one in public and presiding over rallies and other events where there was little or no mask-wearing, even after he was infected with Covid-19.
That partisan divide was on display Monday in the Senate when Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, took Sen. Dan Sullivan, an Alaska Republican, to task for not wearing a mask while presiding over the chamber. He said Sullivan was endangering Senate staffers.
“I don’t wear a mask when I’m speaking, like most senators,” a clearly miffed Sullivan said while his red, white and blue mask sat atop his desk. “I don’t need your instructions.”
"I know you don't need my instruction, but there clearly isn't much interest in this body in public health,” Brown, who was wearing a mask, fired back. "We have a president who hasn't shown up at the coronavirus task force meeting in months.”
At the moment, two Republican senators, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Rick Scott of Florida, are in quarantine after being exposed to somebody infected with Covid-19. Grassley, who is 87, announced later Tuesday that he has tested positive.
In Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds issued the state's first mask mandate after the Republican spent months dismissing face covering restrictions as “feel good” measures. At 51.73 percent, Iowa now has the third highest Covid-19 positivity testing rate in the country after Wyoming and South Dakota.
But in neighboring Nebraska, Gov. Pete Ricketts defended his continued resistance to a mask mandate in a state where the number of people hospitalized for Covid-19 has jumped from 200 in September to 938.
"I don't think mask mandates are appropriate," said Ricketts, who is also a Republican. "I think that they breed resistance."
Nebraska, which has a population of less than two million, has reported 101,601 confirmed coronavirus cases and nearly 800 deaths since the start of the crisis, NBC data shows.