The United States is approaching a record for the number of new daily coronavirus cases in the latest ominous sign about the disease’s grip on the nation.
The impact is being felt in every section of the country, with a Florida health official pleading for a halt to children’s birthday parties while a desperate situation at a hospital in northern Idaho, which is running out of space for patients, continues to escalate.
“We’ve essentially shut down an entire floor of our hospital,” said Dr Robert Scoggins, a pulmonologist at the Kootenai Health hospital in Coeur d’Alene.
“We’ve had to double rooms. We’ve bought more hospital beds.
“Our hospital is not built for a pandemic.”
Meanwhile in the southern Idaho city of Twin Falls, St Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Centre said it would no longer accept children because it is overwhelmed with coronavirus patients.
Except for newborns, all those under age 18 will be sent 128 miles away to Boise.
In Florida, the top health official in one of the state’s most populous counties discouraged parents from hosting birthday parties for their children, no matter the size.
Dr Raul Pino, a state health officer in Orange County, said half of the 30 attendees at a recent Sweet 16 party in the Orlando area came down with the virus.
Last month, an Orange County high school closed for two weeks after students who had attended a birthday party tested positive.
“Those parties will not only affect those people participating in that activity, but also everyone else they come into contact with when they leave,” he said.
“We will continue to see consequences if we don’t act super-responsibly.”
And Utah’s Governor Gary Herbert proclaimed Friday to be “a record day for Utah — but not a good one” as Covid-19 cases reached an all-time high for the state.
He said: “Up until now, our hospitals have been able to provide good care to all Covid and non-Covid patients who need it.
“But today we stand on the brink. If Utahans do not take serious steps to limit group gatherings and wear masks, our healthcare providers will not have the ability to provide quality care for everyone who needs it.”
By public health order, masks are required in 21 counties, Mr Herbert said, urging Utah residents to wear one whenever they are around someone outside their immediate household.
The seven-day rolling average for new daily Covid-19 cases in the US surpassed 61,140 on Thursday, compared with 44,647 two weeks ago.
The record was reached on July 22 when the rolling average was 67,293 in the midst of a summer outbreak driven largely by surges of the virus in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California.
The US recorded 71,671 new cases on Thursday, with several states setting records across the Midwest and West.
The surge mirrors a similarly widespread spike in Europe, where Rome, Paris and other major cities are reining in nightlife as part of the increasingly drastic measures undertaken to slow the spread of the pandemic.
The head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that countries in the Northern Hemisphere are at a “critical juncture” as cases and deaths continue to rise.
“The next few months are going to be very tough and some countries are on a dangerous track,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a press briefing on Friday.