On Thursday, for the second straight day, the U.S. recorded more than 3,000 deaths linked to the coronavirus.
According to a database kept by the COVID Tracking Project, 3,067 across the country were confirmed to have died of complications from COVID-19 on Thursday. The U.S. surpassed the 3,000 death mark for the first time on Wednesday when 3,088 deaths linked to the virus were recorded.
Johns Hopkins University, which uses different methods in recording deaths, reports that 2,993 Americans died of the virus on Thursday.
Both the COVID Tracking Project and Johns Hopkins report that Wednesday and Thursday marked the top two deadliest days since the start of the pandemic.
The 3,000+ deaths represent more lives lost than in U.S. tragedies like the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks and the attack on Pearl Harbor prior to U.S. involvement in World War II.
And while consecutive days of 3,000 deaths represent a level of loss not yet seen since the pandemic began, health officials warn that it could become the new normal — at least in the coming weeks.
A spike in deaths typically trails a few weeks behind spikes in new cases and hospitalizations — both of which have been steadily increasing without respite for more than a month. Since Nov. 1, the seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases has exploded from 80,538 a day to 205,425 a day. In that same span, the number of people hospitalized with the virus has more than doubled, from 47,531 to 107,248.
Those extra patients are placing an enormous workload on hospitals throughout the country. Hospitals across the country are currently operating at maximum capacity, forcing doctors to treat patients in overflow areas like parking garages. Several states, like Indiana, have already mandated a temporary ban on elective surgeries in the hopes of lightening the load on health care workers.
Unlike previous spikes in the spread of the virus, the current wave is not limited to one region of the country. According to the COVID Tracking Project, cases are rising or staying level in 43 states plus Washington, D.C.
Thankfully, the impending authorization of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine offers some light at the end of the tunnel. Health and Human Services Director Alex Azar said Friday that Americans could begin receiving initial doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine as soon as "Monday or Tuesday."