The United States on Saturday saw its highest number yet of coronavirus cases recorded in one day, with more than 277,000 infections. The hardest-hit country in the world by the pandemic, the United States has marked 20.4 million cases overall and just under 350,000 deaths.
The country already reached the grim milestone on Friday, the first day of 2021, surpassing 20 million confirmed cases according to numbers from Johns Hopkins University.
Infections have been surging in recent months, with top US government scientist Anthony Fauci warning just days after Christmas that the worst of the pandemic may be yet to come, driving the country to a “critical point” as holiday travel spreads the virus.
Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appeared to rule out one alternate approach on Friday when he said he disagrees with the United Kingdom’s new vaccine distribution strategy. This week, Britain announced its plan to prioritize the first shot of its two two-dose vaccines, attempting to give as many people as possible at least partial immunity before administering the second dose.
The country has floundered in its efforts to quell COVID-19, with its vaccination program beset by logistical problems and overstretched hospitals.
More than 4.2 million people in the US have already received their first jabs, with 13 million doses distributed, but that falls well behind the 20 million inoculations that President Donald Trump’s administration promised by the end of 2020.
The United States has lost more than 345,000 lives from COVID-19 to date, equal to one in every 950 Americans, and ranks 16th in national per capita coronavirus deaths in the world.