The United States hit a grim milestone on Friday, surpassing 9 million COVID-19 cases, as the pandemic ravages the country with seemingly no end in sight.
The news comes just one day after the country set another record for new U.S. cases Thursday with 88,521, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The New York Times and NBC News, which conduct their own tracking, already had the country surpassing 9 million on Thursday.
The U.S. had 971 deaths Thursday, bringing the pandemic’s death toll to 228,675, according to Johns Hopkins’ numbers.
According to The COVID Tracking Project, more than 46,000 Americans are currently hospitalized, the most since Aug. 13.
Cases are up in 43 states compared to last week, with only two — Louisiana and Oklahoma — reporting a decline, according to Johns Hopkins. Twenty-one states this week hit record seven-day averages, The New York Times reported.
And as cold weather pushes people indoors, the crisis is expected to get even worse. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine currently projects that daily deaths could eclipse 2,200 by Jan. 1. It estimates that number could be cut to about 1,200 with universal masks.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said this week that the latest wave of infections is being driven by small gatherings of families and friends where masks aren’t worn and social distancing isn’t practiced. He added that he fears the upcoming holidays will only exacerbate the pandemic.
“We’re going into a precarious situation,” Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during an interview Wednesday.
The worsening crisis has led to new restrictions in cities including Chicago; Newark, New Jersey; and El Paso, Texas.
Fears of more businesses being forced to close have taken their toll on U.S. stocks this week, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 5.9% and the S&P 500 falling 4.5% since last week as of Friday morning.