The US has reported more than 3,100 coronavirus-related deaths in a single day – a record for the country.
The 3,157 deaths far exceed the previous record of 2,603 set in the spring, while the number of Americans in hospital with COVID-19 has risen past 100,000 for the first time and cases are topping more than 200,000 a day.
The latest update shows more people died with coronavirus in one day than died in the 9/11 terror attacks.
The figures, which are being tracked by Johns Hopkins University, indicate the US is slipping deeper into trouble, with worries the worst could be yet to come following the Thanksgiving holiday, where millions ignored advice and visited family and friends across the country.
Authorities had warned before the holiday that the numbers could fluctuate around Thanksgiving, with a lag in reporting meaning cases could drop, but sharply rise as state agencies catch up.
Hospitals across the country have been inundated with coronavirus patients, with a top health official warning: “The reality is December and January and February are going to be rough times.”
“I actually believe they are going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation,” Dr Robert Redfield, head of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said.
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Deaths related to COVID-19 have risen steadily over the past few weeks, with records breaking for days on end and the virus resulting in around 270,000 total deaths – and more than 14 million infections.
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The figures come as senior politicians in Washington attempt to negotiate a fresh financial relief bill in an effort to bring much-needed aid to Americans.
President-elect Joe Biden has encouraged Republicans to get behind the bill, worth more than $900bn (£658bn), which would create a $300 (£224) per week benefit for out-of-work Americans, as well as send $160bn (£120bn) to state governments to boost education, offer business subsidies, and bail out transport systems and airlines.
Meanwhile, Americans are not expected to have much longer to wait for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to be approved.
The White House’s chief immunologist Dr Anthony Fauci told Sky News that while he believed America’s approval process was more rigorous than the UK’s, the jab is “safe and effective” and would likely be signed off for use in the US in the coming days.