More than 12K COVID-19 deaths reported in US over past week as hospitalizations surpass 98K

The United States recorded more than 12,000 deaths in a week’s time due to COVID-19 as hospitalizations in the country soared, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project and Johns Hopkins University.

There were approximately 12,026 new deaths due to COVID-19 between Nov. 22 and Nov. 30 in the U.S. alone.

In addition to the death toll, within the same time span, hospitalizations increased by 14,912, bringing total U.S. hospitalizations due to the novel coronavirus to a staggering 98,691 as of Dec. 1.

Despite health experts’ and doctors’ repeated warnings to the general public to stay home and avoid traveling this holiday season, COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the population as air travel hit record numbers since the start of the pandemic.

Millions of Americans returned home after partaking in Thanksgiving festivities and health officials advised that anyone who traveled for the holidays should assume they are infected, reminding everyone to remain vigilant in recognizing the common symptoms of COVID-19.

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The day after Thanksgiving, the U.S. saw its largest number of coronavirus tests conducted in a single day since the start of the pandemic, with more than 2.1 million, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

FILE - In an aerial view from a drone, cars are lined up at Dodger Stadium for COVID-19 testing on the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend on November 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

As cases continue to spike across the country, hospitals are starting to feel the strain.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said hospitals across the state will reduce elective surgeries to ensure there is room for coronavirus patients. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 jumped 29% in the past week.

In Kansas City, Kansas, hospital and nursing officials said they fear there will not be enough nurses to staff new hospital beds in the metro area if COVID-19 cases continue unchecked. Health officials on Monday added 4,425 confirmed infections and 87 hospitalizations to the state’s pandemic tally since Friday.

Rhode Island’s hospitals reached their COVID-19 capacity on Monday, the same day the state’s two-week pause took effect. Under restrictions announced by Gov. Gina Raimondo, some businesses will be required to shut down, while others are restricted. Residents are also asked to limit their social circles to people in their household.

“This will not be easy, but I am pleading with you to take it seriously," Raimondo said in a statement.

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In suburban St. Louis, a hospital official warned that hospitalizations could double in two to three weeks if people don’t quarantine after Thanksgiving gatherings. SSM Health DePaul Hospital in Bridgeton, Missouri, last week brought in a morgue trailer to store the dead, canceled elective surgeries and doubled up patients in rooms.

“We will be absolutely overwhelmed," said Shelly Cordum, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer. “I can’t even imagine what we are going to be facing in three weeks if we stay on this path.”

FILE - A medical staff member holds a hand of a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the COVID-19 intensive care unit (ICU) at the United Memorial Medical Center on Nov. 19, 2020 in Houston, Texas.

Meanwhile, two promising vaccines are awaiting approval to be distributed to the public, but even if they are approved before the year’s end, it does not mean everyone will have immediate access to it.

On Monday, Moderna Inc. said it will ask U.S. and European regulators to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine as new study results confirm the shots offer strong protection. Pfizer is also seeking approval for its vaccine and hopes to begin administering shots in the U.S. in December.

The virus is blamed for over 267,000 deaths and more than 13.4 million confirmed infections in the U.S. The country on average is seeing more than 160,000 new cases per day and over 1,400 deaths — a toll on par with what the nation witnessed in mid-May when New York City was the epicenter.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.