The United States reported over one million new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, setting a global record for a single-day total as the ultra-transmissible omicron coronavirus variant continues its savage spread.
The daily high likely includes a backlog of cases from the holiday weekend. But with more people relying on at-home testing for identifying COVID-19 infections, the number is still probably an underrepresentation of recent cases.
Though cases are rising nationwide, the Eastern US is seeing the highest case rates and steepest increases. New York, New Jersey, and Washington, DC, have the top-three highest infection rates in the country. Louisiana, Maryland, and Alabama are reporting the largest increase in cases over the last two weeks.
The nationwide case tally for Monday is nearly double the country’s previous record, set just days ago. The US reported over 1,017,000 cases Monday, beating out the daily total on December 30 of just over 585,000, according to data tracking from The New York Times. The current seven-day average of US cases is 486,658, up 239 percent over the past two weeks. The cumulative tally is over 56 million, the highest in the world.
The single-day tally of cases in the US appears to be a global record. India, which has the second-largest cumulative case count worldwide, with nearly 35 million total cases, logged its record daily tally of just over 414,000 in early May of this year.
The vertical spike in cases in the US—and many other countries around the globe—is being powered by omicron, which is proving far more contagious than any other variant before it, including the fast-spreading delta variant. Data on omicron’s infections is still preliminary, but the evidence accumulating so far suggests that omicron waves are milder than previous waves, with fewer hospitalizations and deaths.
While cases have increased 239 percent over the past two weeks, hospitalizations have only risen 41 percent, with the current daily average at around 98,000. Though hospitalizations lag case increases, the relatively slow rise in hospitalizations suggests that the ratio of cases to hospitalizations will end up being lower in this wave.
Still, hospitalizations are extremely high and increasing, further straining health systems that were already overwhelmed, short-staffed, and exhausted by the effects of previous waves. Even if a smaller proportion of omicron cases land in the hospital, the raw number of cases is still large. The country is rapidly nearing its all-time record for hospitalized COVID-19 patients per day of around 137,500, set in mid-January last year. Experts expect the omicron wave will continue to rise in the coming weeks.