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Doctors are warning that the US will see the 'darkest days in modern medical history' in the weeks after Thanksgiving as the daily COVID-19 death toll hits the highest since May and hospitalizations continue to surge to record highs.
Millions of Americans took to the skies and the highways in the days leading up to Thanksgiving despite the risk of pouring gasoline on the coronavirus fire as they disregarded increasingly dire warnings to avoid travel and events.
With cases, hospitalizations and deaths already skyrocketing across the US, health officials are warning the worst is yet to come given the true impact of Thanksgiving travel and gatherings won't be seen for a few weeks.
The daily death toll across the country spiked to 2,297 yesterday, which is the highest number of deaths per day since May and the second day in a row where fatalities have surpassed 2,000.
Health officials have been warning for weeks that deaths, which are a lagging indicator, would increase after the number of cases and hospitalizations started surging in late September.
There were 181,490 new cases recorded yesterday alone and the number of infections has consistently been well above 100,000 every day for the last three weeks.
Hospitalizations have been surging to record highs over the past month with nearly 90,000 patients being treated as of yesterday.
While the Midwest continues to be the hardest hit, California saw a 17 percent spike in cases in 24 hours and New York recorded it deadliest day since May with 67 fatalities.
Doctors in parts of the country have warned that hospitals are already overwhelmed and are nearing capacity in some states.
Dr Joseph Varon, chief of staff at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas said his hospital is already full and he expects cases and hospitalizations to surge even higher after Thanksgiving.
'My concerns for the next six to 12 weeks is that if we don't do things right, America is going to see the darkest days in modern American medical history,' Varon told CNN.
'My hospital is full. I just opened two new wings so that I can accommodate for the next few days, because I know that a lot of people are going to get sick after Thanksgiving,' he said.
The CDC and state and local authorities spent the past week begging people not to travel and urging them to keep their Thanksgiving celebrations small.
Yet millions defied the official warnings with nearly six million traveling by plane in the last six days. Over 1 million passed through US airport checkpoints yesterday alone, which is the largest crowd since the COVID-19 crisis took hold in March.
AAA, which forecasts Thanksgiving travel every year, says 48 million Americans will travel by car and 350,000 by train between today and Sunday - just a 10 percent overall decline from last year.
Traffic was bumper to bumper on highways in California's San Fernando Valley last night. More drivers are expected to take to the roads today.
It comes as 95 percent of counties across the country are now seeing an uncontrollable spread of COVID-19 infections, a data map compiled by spatial analytics company Esri shows.
The map shows that of the 3,141 counties in the US, 3005 are currently experiencing an epidemic, or uncontrollable spread, of the virus.
The CDC and state and local authorities spent the past week begging people not to travel and urging them to keep their Thanksgiving celebrations small. Yet millions defied the official warnings with nearly six million traveling by plane in the last six days
Ninety five percent of counties across the country are now seeing an uncontrollable spread of COVID-19 infections, this data map compiled by spatial analytics company Esri shows
Six million people flew in the six days before Thanksgiving, according to TSA figures.
48 million Americans will travel by car between Wednesday and Sunday, AAA says.
350,000 will travel by train between today and Sunday, according to AAA forecasts.
While COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are spiking nationally, the Midwest - encompassing a dozen states between Ohio and the Dakotas - has been especially brutalized.
Midwest states continue to be among the hardest hit in the country based on cases and deaths per 100,000 people.
North Dakota is still the worst affected with 158 cases per 100,000 people in the last week. Wyoming follows with 154 cases, New Mexico with 127 cases, South Dakota with 122 and Minnesota with 115 cases per capita.
The worst affected states for deaths per capita are South Dakota with 2.8 deaths per 100,000 residents in the last seven days. North Dakota follows with 2.1 deaths and Wyoming with 1.4 fatalities.
Cases are also rising in every other state with California seeing its number of cases jump 17 percent in 24 hours.
Dr Anthony Fauci has warned that the US is already in the middle of a spike and that the true impact of Thanksgiving travel and gatherings won't be seen for another three weeks when infections and hospitalizations could surge even higher.
'The final message is to do what we've been saying for some time... keep the indoor gatherings as small as you possibly can,' he told ABC's Good Morning America. 'By making that sacrifice you're going to prevent people from getting infected.
'The sacrifice now could save lives and illness and make the future much brighter as we get through this...we're going to get through this. Vaccines are right on the horizon. If we can just hang in there a bit longer and continue to do the simple mitigation - masks, distancing, avoiding crowds. That's my final plea before the holiday.'
With caseloads soaring, more than half the nation's governors imposed or reimposed statewide measures this month. But despite more stringent face-mask requirements, curfews and limits on bars and restaurants, the metrics of the virus have only worsened.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: Traffic was bumper to bumper on highways in California's San Fernando Valley last night. More drivers are expected to take to the roads today
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA: Passengers arrive at a United gate at San Francisco International Airport yesterday
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH: Passengers line up to go through a security checkpoint at Salt Lake City International Airport yesterday