HomeCoronavirusUS records 166,000 new Covid cases as Trump supporters crowd Washington

US records 166,000 new Covid cases as Trump supporters crowd Washington

The US recorded 166,555 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, down on more than 184,000 on Friday but still its second-highest daily total and a 12th day in a row of more than 100,000.

One expert said the approach of the crowded and travel-heavy holiday season left him “terrified” .

According to Johns Hopkins University, the overall US caseload is now nearly 10.9m. More than 245,000 people have died. On Saturday, 1,266 died. Hospitalisations are rising.

In Washington DC on Saturday, thousands attended the “Million Maga March”, a gathering of supporters of Donald Trump, who lost the presidential election to Joe Biden but has refused to concede.

At campaign and White House events, Trump has refused to implement mitigation measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing. The president – who has heralded news of an imminent Pfizer vaccine – members of his family, top aides and senior Republicans have all tested positive.

On Saturday, local media reported that around the White House, where Trump waved to crowds of supporters from his presidential motorcade, “it seemed a majority of the protesters gathered were not wearing masks”.

Washington DC has a mask mandate, which states in part: “Persons leaving their residences shall wear a mask when they are likely to come into contact with another person, such as being within 6ft of another person for more than a fleeting time.”

Trump has said his administration will not implement any further social lockdowns. Biden, who has appointed his own Covid-19 advisory group, has made similar indications but supports a national mask mandate. Across the country, particularly in the hard-hit midwest, states are implementing stricter controls.

On Saturday, California, Minnesota and Maryland were among states reporting rapidly rising case numbers, as healthcare systems began to show the strain. Oregon and New Mexico have implemented new social restrictions, while North Dakota has introduced a mask mandate and Arkansas has established a new Covid taskforce. From Monday, the Navajo Nation will enter a three-week stay-at-home advisory period.

Predictive models suggest another 100,000 could die by January. Experts have warned the final death toll could be around 400,000.

On Saturday Dr James Phillips, chief of disaster medicine at George Washington University Hospital, said he was “terrified” about the imminent holiday season.

“We’re going to see an unprecedented surge of cases following Thanksgiving this year, and if people don’t learn from Thanksgiving, we’re going to see it after Christmas as well,” Phillips told CNN.

In New York, where cases are rising if not to levels seen elsewhere, Mayor Bill de Blasio has advised against travel for Thanksgiving, when Americans traditionally go home to their families. De Blasio has also warned that schools may close again on Monday. On Saturday the New Jersey governor, Phil Murphy, called case numbers there “alarming and concerning, to say the least”.

In Washington, leaders of the Trump taskforce promised swift distribution of the Pfizer vaccine to the vulnerable and frontline health workers, once it obtains emergency use authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration, expected by the end of November.

From Wilmington, Delaware, where he continues transition efforts impeded by Trump’s refusal to concede, Biden has appealed to Americans to observe mitigation measures.

In a report published on Saturday, Dr Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota and a member of Biden’s advisory board, told the Guardian: “It’s important to understand virtually the entire US is becoming a hotspot, which means nothing really is a hotspot any more – everything is.

“Failure is not an option here. We have to do whatever we can to reduce the impact of the virus on our society.”

Dr Leana Wen, a doctor and public health professor at George Washington, former Baltimore health commissioner and now a CNN analyst, who is not on Biden’s advisory board, said the president-elect’s “single biggest challenge is going to be re-establishing trust.

“We won’t be able to stop the surges and infections if half of the country does not follow his guidance.”

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