Rising COVID Hospitalizations During Holidays Foreshadow Grim New Year

A rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations over the Christmas holiday season is an ominous sign for the new year as the latest data shows more than 118,000 Americans were battling the coronavirus on Sunday.

The COVID Tracking Project run by The Atlantic recorded that 118,720 people were in American hospitals yesterday as a result of becoming infected with COVID-19, bringing the 7-day average to 118,248 hospitalizations.

If the number of hospitalizations continues to increase over the coming week, COVID-19 deaths are likely to creep up again in the new year, adding to the hundreds of thousands who have already died from the disease in America alone.

Daily cases and deaths both fell below their seven-day averages on Sunday, with states reporting 1,395 deaths and 152,461 new cases. Daily testing also dropped to a little under 1.4 million, down from the 7-day average of 1.7 million.

However, this may reflect a lag in the data rather than an improvement in the situation. The COVID Tracking Project urged to treat the data with caution because some states failed to report figures over the Christmas break and others gave "incomplete" updates.

"Holidays have had major impacts on COVID data reporting this year, as shown in these case trends," the volunteer organization tweeted last night.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, the number of reported cases per 100,000 Americans has risen to 56.7 on average over the past week. Meanwhile, the total number of deaths had reached 330,901 as of Sunday afternoon.

A little more than 18.9 million cases have been reported across the U.S. since the pandemic began earlier this year, per CDC data.

A model by scientists at the University of Washington, published in the journal Nature in October, projected the U.S. would reach more than 500,000 COVID deaths at the end of February, but also said universal mask-wearing could save nearly 130,000 lives.

As the number of cases continued to rise over the weekend, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director, warned of a "post-seasonal" surge in cases as a potential result of indoor gatherings.

"The reason I'm concerned, and my colleagues in public health are concerned, also, is that we very well might see a post-seasonal—in the sense of Christmas and New Year's—surge," Fauci told CNN on Sunday.

"And as I've described it, a surge upon a surge. Because if you look at the slope, the incline of cases that we've experienced as we've gone into the late fall, and soon-to-be early winter, it is really quite troubling."

He also said that the U.S. was at a "very critical point" in its battle against COVID-19 and warned that further pressure on the system could be the result of festive family gatherings.

"I share the concern of President-elect Biden that as we get into the next few weeks, it might actually get worse," the top disease expert added.

A suspected COVID-19 positive body is moved
Maryland Cremation Services transporter Morgan Dean-McMillan moves a suspected Covid-19 positive body to her van at a hospital in Baltimore, Maryland on December 23, 2020. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images