Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, while cities and counties set records for coronavirus infections

Here are some significant developments:

The much anticipated Thanksgiving holiday weekend is here, offering Americans an opportunity to unwind and take a breather from a long, dreary year, tarnished by sickness and economic hurdles that has impacted the lives of millions. But with it has come the much feared peak of coronavirus cases that is ravaging the country.

“The dreaded fall wave, in many places, is upon us,” said Josh Michaud, an epidemiologist and associate director for global health policy at the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation. “And that includes in metropolitan areas.”

Dramatic increases have been reported in many major American cities in recent weeks, with some being hit harder than they were during their previous peaks.

In Cook County, where the city of Chicago is located, the seven-day average of new cases hit a record high of 4,654 on Nov. 17 — far outpacing the peak of 1,690 during the spring surge.

The surge in Chicago mirrors those in metropolitan areas across the country. In recent weeks, counties home to large cities, including Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Detroit, Las Vegas and Minneapolis, have seen record highs in case numbers. Miami-Dade County has seen a recent uptick, and Salt Lake County is experiencing its first major peak.

In Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, the seven-day average of new cases, which hovered around 500 a day in late October, exceeded 2,000 on Monday.

The country’s two largest states Wednesday broke the nationwide record for most new coronavirus infections reported in a single day, with California tallying 18,350 and Texas nearly 16,100 — around 3,000 and 1,000 cases more than the previous high, respectively.

Daily coronavirus-related deaths in the United States have reached levels not seen since the early throes of the pandemic following a surge in the number of those hospitalized, an ominous sign that the current jump in cases is beginning to take its deadly toll and that more grim months lie ahead.

Though far fewer people who test positive for the coronavirus now die of it, the sheer number of those infected has mushroomed in recent weeks.

In the meantime, the world watches with bewilderment and disbelief, as scores of Americans decide to travel to visit family and friends for this weekend’s holiday, despite health officials’ recommendations and a staggering number of cases and fatalities.

As the public experiences fatigue after a grueling year with months of social distancing and disease affecting millions, along with colder weather, experts say it is becoming more difficult for the public to follow precaution measures.

“From Australia, this looks like a mindbogglingly dangerous chapter in the out-of-control American COVID-19 story,” Ian Mackay, an associate professor of virology at the University of Queensland, wrote in an email. “Sadly, for some, this will be a Thanksgiving that is remembered for all the wrong reasons.”

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