US surpasses 9 million COVID-19 cases just days before election

An uptick in cases and hospitalisations linked to COVID-19 is pushing US legislators to plead for people to be cautious.

Several US states are trying to contain the spread of COVID-19 after reporting record-setting numbers of new infections and hospitalisations [File: Bing Guan/Reuters]

As the United States presidential election campaign enters the final stretch, lawmakers in several states across the country are desperately trying to curb the spread of COVID-19, which has surged in recent weeks.

The US surpassed nine million COVID-19 cases on Friday, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University, and more than 229,000 deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus were reported nationwide.

This is the fastest the country has added one million new COVID-19 infections to its tally since the start of the pandemic, CNN reported, going from eight to nine million cases in the span of 14 days.

The US also broke a single-day record for new infections on Thursday, reporting at least 91,248 new cases, according to a Reuters news agency tally.

The uptick in cases and hospitalisations has pushed legislators in hard-hit states – both Republicans and Democrats – to ask people to remain vigilant and avoid large gatherings to stem new infections.

“Utah is in a very serious situation,” Republican Governor Gary Herbert tweeted this week.

“COVID-19 is the most devastating when hospitals are overwhelmed and unable to provide good care to everyone who needs it. We have seen this in Italy. We have seen this in New York. We could see this in Utah if things do not change,” he wrote.

Utah is among several states currently that have seen record numbers of new cases. An increase in hospitalisations, in particular, has left many state governments concerned about their capacity to handle such high demand for medical care.

The number of hospitalised COVID-19 patients has risen by more than 50 percent in October to 46,000, the highest since mid-August, according to Reuters news agency figures.

Tony Evers, the Democratic Party governor of Wisconsin, has also urged residents to stay home to prevent the spread of the virus. On Thursday, he said the state had set up 71 new COVID-19 testing sites across 56 counties and seven tribal nations.

“I see that the White House has given up on this issue and they’re focusing on things that are down the road … Down the road is allowing lots of people to pass away. We’re not giving up here,” Evers said.

‘A tragic failure’

The stark COVID-19 infection numbers have thrust the pandemic once again into the spotlight, just four days from election day on November 3.

US President Donald Trump, who tested positive and was hospitalised for COVID-19 early this month, has routinely downplayed the threat of the virus since the pandemic began – and he continues to do so.

In one of his first campaign stops after leaving Walter Reed Medical Center, Trump said he was “immune” to the deadly disease. He has since said he believes the country is “rounding the turn” of the pandemic and falsely claimed that COVID-19 infections were decreasing.

Critics have slammed the Republican president for holding enormous rallies where his supporters have been tightly packed together, with few wearing masks to stem the potential spread of the virus.

Trump’s Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, has made an abundance of caution around the virus a pillar of his campaign strategy, often holding “drive-in” events where supporters can remain in their cars.

Biden has also repeatedly slammed Trump in his campaign speeches, accusing the president of not doing enough to protect people from the virus despite knowing its risks.

Donald Trump has held several campaign rallies in the final weeks before the November 3 presidential election, claiming that the US is ’rounding the turn’ on the COVID-19 pandemic [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

On Friday, a Democratic subcommittee in the US House of Representatives released a report on the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic, which it described as “a tragic failure”.

The Democratic-led subcommittee said the US government failed to implement a national strategy, failed to provide timely economic support to struggling Americans and refused to extend critical unemployment insurance.

It also accused Trump administration officials of injecting politics into public health decisions.

“This report exhaustively documents what has long been clear: the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus crisis has been a tragic failure,” the subcommittee chairman, James Clyburn, said in a statement.

“While we cannot bring back the nearly 230,000 Americans we have lost to this disease, I hope that this report will serve as a wake-up call to make the improvements needed to prevent further unnecessary deaths and deprivation that will occur if the response continues on its current course.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies