Biden predicts ‘challenging’ weeks as U.S. hits daily record for COVID-19 cases

President Joe Biden speaks in a meeting with members of the White House COVID-19 Response Team at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. The U.S. added more than 1 million people to its COVID-19 case count on Monday. Photo by Ting Shen/UPI
Jan. 4 (UPI) — President Joe Biden said Tuesday that Americans should brace for a difficult short-term future as COVID-19 cases soar.

The United States smashed a global daily record for new COVID-19 cases on Monday — more than 1 million — as the Omicron variant rages nationwide. But the number of deaths was far off the record mark.

“I know we’re all tired and frustrated about the pandemic. These coming weeks are going to be challenging,” Biden said Tuesday ahead of a briefing.

Despite the dramatic surge in cases making a major impact nationwide, Biden said his hope is for schools to remain open.

“We have no reason to believe at this point that Omicron is worse for children than previous variants. We know that our kids can be safe when in schools. That’s why I believe schools should remain open. They have what they need. I encourage the states and school districts to use the funding that you still have to protect the children and keep the schools open,” Biden said.

“Schools can and should be open this winter, we have all the tools to keep kids safe. Unvaccinated kids are at risk.”

Many school districts have postponed students’ return to the classroom from the holiday break. Five Atlanta-area districts went to virtual learning on Monday as six area hospital systems reported surges in COVID-19 hospitalization rates, from 100% to 200%.

According to scientists at Johns Hopkins University, who have been tracing coronavirus cases nationally since early 2020, there were 1.08 million new cases on Monday.

However, the number of coronavirus deaths was almost 1,700, which is far from the record of about 4,400 set about a year ago. Since the start of the pandemic in early 2020, there have been 56.1 million coronavirus cases in the United States and almost 830,000 related deaths.

Scientists have said the Omicron variant appears to be less deadly than prior strains, particularly among the vaccinated — which number about 205 million in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins.

Biden once again called on the millions of Americans who remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 to get the shot.

“There are still 35 million people not vaccinated. Let me be absolutely clear: We have in hand, all the vaccines we need to get every American fully vaccinated, including the booster shot. There’s no excuse for anyone being unvaccinated,” Biden said.

“If you’re vaccinated and boosted, you are highly protected. Be concerned about Omicron, but don’t be alarmed. Unvaccinated are taking up hospital beds and crowding emergency rooms and intensive-care units. That has displaced people who need access to those hospitals. So please, get vaccinated now.”

The administration also announced it will double its order of Pfizer’s treatment for COVID-19, from 10 million to 20 million doses. The pills have been shown to decrease hospitalization and death from the virus.

Monday’s record was nearly twice the previous high of 590,000, which was set four days ago. Maryland, Alabama, Delaware, New Jersey and Ohio have seen the most new COVID-19 cases recently, per 100,000 population.

The seven-day average in the United States, as of Monday, was about 480,000 per day, according to Johns Hopkins. That’s the highest of any country in the world.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the Omicron variant is now responsible for about 95% of all cases nationwide.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 80% of intensive-care unit beds around the country are in use, and nearly a quarter are taken by COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, said this week that the Omicron surge may ultimately lead to a recommendation for second vaccine booster shots. New York City Mayor Eric Adams also said he’s considering a booster mandate for city workers, who have been ordered to receive the initial round of vaccination.



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