U.S. Ushers in New Year With 20M COVID Cases, Accounting for Nearly 25% of World's Total

American COVID infections reached another milestone on New Year's Day as the United States surpassed more than 20 million COVID cases, making up nearly 25 percent of infections globally. The news comes as officials warn of another possible COVID wave in America due to New Year's Eve celebrations and holiday travel.

John Hopkins University's COVID map reported 20,037,736 cases on Friday, which put the United States ahead of the next highest-infected country, India, by nearly 10 million positive cases. Overall, there have been over 83 million cases of COVID worldwide.

Before New Year's Eve celebrations, officials warned Americans to stay home and continue social distancing. Traditions like New York City's Times Square's ball drop were muted, as they were forced to forgo live audiences and the general holiday cheer associated with ringing in each new year.

Despite the entertainment industry changes, there's still wariness about a possible increase in COVID cases after the New Year, as some citizens likely didn't abide by CDC guidelines. People were warned to avoid large gatherings, not meet in indoor/unventilated settings and even cancel their plans to mitigate additional spread.

Still, over 84 million Americans were scheduled to travel between Christmas and New Year's, AAA reported, implying another spread among visitors is inevitable. And holiday travel, in general, gave way to the biggest travel boom of 2020, with open state Florida leading the list of destinations in November.

CBS News Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook put it plainly: "It would be magical thinking to think we're not going to see a bump after all this travel around the holiday season with Christmas and New Year's," he said.

It seems most New Years' Eve celebrations around the world were quiet, as much of the globe is still dealing with the dangerous spread of the virus. But in Wuhan, China, where the virus was reportedly first discovered, citizens packed the streets to welcome 2021 with safety and hope.

About 346,687 Americans have died due to coronavirus—part of 1.8 million fatalities globally—while the U.S. has primarily left mask mandates, lockdown procedures and general virus protocol to state governments.

Qualifying citizens are currently awaiting their second stimulus check. It will grant individuals up to $600 in COVID emergency funding. Vaccine distribution has begun, too, although the pace of the rollout has been criticized by President-elect Joe Biden and some politicians and health officials. In December, select high-risk seniors and healthcare workers were given the first dose of a two-part injection.

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NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 23: A member of FDNY EMS receives the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine at the FDNY Fire Training Academy on Randall’s Island on December 23, 2020 in New York City. Members of FDNY EMS were given doses of the Moderna coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine allotted for the department. Firefighters who are considered essential frontline workers but not essential health care workers will be able to receive the vaccine starting on December 29. The vaccine will not be mandatory for EMS workers or firefighters. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images/Getty