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U.S. Covid-19 cases hit 22 million as scientists track variant strain

The nation reported 269,420 new cases Friday, setting a new single-day record.
Image: Covid-19 ICU
Dr. Dan Ponticiello, 43, and Dr. Gabriel Gomez, 40, intubate a patient in the COVID-19 ICU at Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, Calif., on Friday.Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

The U.S. surpassed 22 million coronavirus cases Friday and set a record for new cases in a single day, according to NBC News' tally.

The records come as cases and deaths reach new highs in the United Kingdom after a mutant strain of Covid-19 was detected there. At least 50 cases of the more contagious variant have been identified so far in the U.S.

The U.S. reported 269,420 new cases of Covid-19 on Friday, a new record. Two states also set new daily highs: Maine with 41 deaths and New York with 18,687 cases.

There have been more than 369,000 deaths in the U.S.

As cases and deaths climb, American scientists are working around-the-clock to determine how widespread the U.K. variant is. Since the strain was found late last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has promised to ramp up genetic sequencing in the U.S., which is needed to find new strains.

A spokesperson for the CDC said the agency is working with state health officials and academic and public health laboratories to double the number of samples sequenced every week.

In the U.K., the strain is pushing hospitals to their breaking points.

"Our hospitals are under more pressure from Covid-19 than at any time since the start of the pandemic," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

Paramedic Ben Schischa said the situation has become "completely crazy" and that the number of people confirmed or suspected to have Covid-19 has "exploded exponentially" compared to even a week or two ago.

Schischa has been on the front lines of the pandemic since March and said he has seen patients wait in ambulances for hours until a hospital had enough space for them.

"That's just an example of what's going on at the moment. And that's the same everywhere — London, Kent, Essex," Schischa said, referring to counties in southeast England that are among the hardest hit. "It's become like a war zone again."

The virus has killed more than 76,000 people in the U.K., the worst death toll in Europe and the fifth worst in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.