U.S. hits 9 million Covid-19 cases less than a week before Election Day

In other coronavirus news: Minnesota, Ohio, Kansas, South Dakota set records, and Blacks are hit hardest by the downturn.
Cody Tupen, a firefighter with the Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority, performs a nose swab Covid-19 test on Nancy Backus, the mayor of Auburn, Wash., at a Covid-19 testing site Wednesday in Auburn, south of Seattle.
Cody Tupen, a firefighter with the Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority, performs a nose swab Covid-19 test on Nancy Backus, the mayor of Auburn, Wash., at a Covid-19 testing site Wednesday in Auburn, south of Seattle. Ted S. Warren / AP

The United States logged 9 million Covid-19 cases Thursday just hours after reporting a single-day record of 80,622 infections, the latest NBC News tally showed.

It was the first time the U.S. had crossed the 80,000-case threshold since the start of the pandemic and the third time in a week that a daily case record was broken, the data showed.

The 996 Covid-19 deaths reported Wednesday raised the national death toll to nearly 230,000, the most in the world, according to the Johns Hopkins University Covid-19 dashboard.

The dire development came with Election Day less than a week away and as President Donald Trump insists repeatedly on the campaign trail that "we are rounding the turn" on the pandemic.

Covid-19 infections had been spreading across the U.S. at the fastest rate since the crisis began even before the country hit the dismal benchmark of 9 million coronavirus infections.

In other coronavirus news:

There was more bad news for Trump out of Pennsylvania, a must-win state where polls show challenger Joe Biden with a lead.

Overnight, the state reported its 200,000th coronavirus case.

"The news that Pennsylvania has passed the grim milestone of 200,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases is a tragic reminder that President Trump has failed at his most basic and essential duty, to keep American families safe," Biden said in a statement. "Rather than working to contain the spread of the virus, President Trump continues to peddle the lie that America is rounding the corner on this pandemic."

Minnesota, another state where Biden appears to be leading, also reported a record number of new cases, with 2,872, the date showed.

At least two Trump-friendly states also set records Wednesday, the data showed. Kansas recorded 3,369 cases, and South Dakota logged 1,270.

Ohio, a pivotal state that polls indicate could go either way, topped 3,000 new coronavirus cases for the first time, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

"The virus is raging throughout the state of Ohio," Gov. Mike DeWine said. "There's no place to hide."

In North Carolina, two people who took part in a Trump rally last week have come down with infections.

"These cases are not thought to be an indication of spread from the rally at this time, but rather two independent cases among individuals who were in attendance," the Gaston County Department of Health and Human services said in a news release.

Trump, who was recently hospitalized with a case of Covid-19, has held a spate of campaign rallies of late where there has been little mask-wearing or social distancing. He has been accused of sowing coronavirus disinformation and politicizing the use of masks by refusing, until recently, to wear one in public.

Some of Trump's most ardent supporters, like Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., have been amplifying the president's mixed messages, urging people to defy mask mandates and promoting unproven cures like hydroxychloroquine on social media,the Arizona Republic reported.

"There's no medical basis for what he's telling people to do, and he has no scientific standing to make these statements," Dr. Lee Ann Kelley, president of the Maricopa County, Arizona, Medical Society, said of Biggs.

Biggs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's leading expert on infectious diseases, who has locked horns with Trump and his aides at the White House, said small gatherings of families and friends where masks aren't worn and social distancing isn't practiced are driving the recent surge of infections. And Fauci said that with the holiday season looming, he fears that the pandemic could go into overdrive.

"We're going into a precarious situation," Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a recent interview.

Trump got some encouraging news Thursday when the gross domestic product rose, as expected, by a record 33.1 percent in the last quarter.

"Biggest and Best in the History of our Country," Trump tweeted.

But all the new GDP number really means, experts said, is that the economy is close to being back to where it was at before the pandemic hit and wiped out 22 million jobs.

"The obvious caveat is that when you drop 30 percent and gain 30 percent, you're still below where you started," said Jon Burckett-St. Laurent, senior portfolio manager at Exencial Wealth Advisors.

There are still 11 million Americans out of work, and the Labor Department reported Thursday that around 751,000 people applied for first-time unemployment benefits last week.

"The labor market won't be recovered for years," said Ryan Sweet, senior director of research at Moody's. "We still have a significant hole to dig ourselves out of."

The unemployment rate when Trump took over from President Barack Obama in January 2017 was 4.8 percent. It's 7.9 percent now, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

Joe Murphy contributed.