WASHINGTON: The United States set a grim double record on Wednesday (Dec 16) notching more than 3,700 deaths and more than 250,000 new COVID-19 cases in 24 hours, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.
The country has seen a spectacular spike in COVID-19 infections for more than a month now, with about 113,000 people currently hospitalised due to the virus, also a new record, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services.
The tally marks the third time in the past week that the United States has crossed the 3,000 deaths threshold. The previous 24-hour record was set in late April at the height of the country's first wave - which never totally ended.
Over the last two weeks, the number of new COVID-19 cases in 24 hours has climbed above 200,000 for 11 out of 14 days.
Wednesday's exact death toll was 3,784 fatalities over the previous 24 hours leading up to 8.30pm local time.
Health officials had feared the Thanksgiving holiday in late November would lead to a fresh outbreak of the novel coronavirus after millions of Americans traveled to join friends and family.
Experts now fear the situation will become even more dire following end of year celebrations, including the Christmas holiday.
The latest records were set even as the United States undergoes its first week of a mass vaccination program aimed at stopping the surging pandemic.
On Monday, the first Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine injections were administered in the United States, although authorities warn it will still be months before a large enough portion of the population is immunised.
Faced with the urgency of the situation and fears of vaccine shortages, the US Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday that six or even seven doses could be squeezed out of vials that were supposed to contain only five doses to avoid unused vaccine being discarded.
"At this time, given the public health emergency, FDA is advising that it is acceptable to use every full dose obtainable," it said in a tweet, adding that Pfizer was on board with the recommendation.