The United States reported at least 291,300 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, a single-day record but one that is inflated because of delays in reporting over the holidays.
Nineteen states reported no data on Friday, which was a public holiday for New Year’s Day. The remaining states reported a total of more than 147,000 new cases on Friday. The near doubling of cases on Saturday can mostly be explained by many states reporting cases for both Friday and Saturday, with one state, Michigan, reporting cases for Thursday as well. Other states will wait until Sunday or Monday to report cases from the past few days, which will continue to distort the totals.
Regular data reporting is expected to resume toward the end of next week.
The country’s previous single-day record, according to a New York Times database, was 280,514 new cases on Dec. 11, though that number was also inflated because of 43,000 cases that were added from a backlog in Texas. The highest number of new cases in a single day without any data anomalies was 251,191 on Dec. 18.
Regardless of holiday reporting delays, the United States has had the world’s worst outbreak for most of the pandemic and is experiencing a new surge in infections even as vaccine distribution begins. The deluge is particularly strong in Los Angeles County, the largest in the United States, where the seven-day average of new cases is at a peak of 16,193, about 12 times higher than the seven-day average from Nov. 1, which was 1,347.
And with fears that another wave of cases will crest after holiday travel and gatherings, the country reached yet another milestone on Saturday that was once unthinkable, surpassing 350,000 total deaths. At the same time, more than 123,000 Covid-19 patients were hospitalized, only a slight drop from the record level on Thursday.
Distribution of the vaccine in the United States is taking longer than expected, with holiday staffing shortages and other resource issues putting the campaign far behind schedule in its third week. More than 4.2 million people in the United States have received a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, far short of the goal federal officials set to give at least 20 million people their first shots before the end of December.