More Americans were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Wednesday than at any time since the pandemic began, as total coronavirus infections crossed the 21 million mark, deaths soared across much of the United States and a historic vaccination effort lagged.
U.S. COVID-19 hospitalizations reached a record 130,834 late on Tuesday, according to a Reuters tally of public health data, while 3,684 reported fatalities was the second-highest single-day death toll of the pandemic.
That appalling toll meant that on Tuesday someone died from COVID-19 every 24 seconds in the United States. With total deaths surpassing 357,000, one in every 914 U.S. residents has died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to a Reuters analysis.
In hard-hit California, public health authorities ordered hospitals in more than a dozen southern and central counties overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients to suspend elective surgeries for at least three weeks.
The order, issued late on Tuesday by the state’s Department of Public Health, applies to 14 counties, including Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, where hospital critical care capacity has been severely stretched.
Total U.S. COVID-19 cases surpassed the 21 million mark on Wednesday, and, with many healthcare systems approaching a breaking point, pressure mounted on state and local officials to speed up distribution of the two authorized vaccines from Pfizer Inc with partner BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc.
The lack of a federal blueprint for the crucial final step of getting the vaccines into tens of millions of arms has left state and local officials in charge of the monumental effort, creating a patchwork of different plans across United States.