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U.S. Sets Another Single-Day Record For Coronavirus Cases

President-Elect Joe Biden removes his face mask to speak at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del., on Thursday. When Biden takes office he'll be dealing with a virus that is rampaging through theU.S.×
President-Elect Joe Biden removes his face mask to speak at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del., on Thursday. When Biden takes office he'll be dealing with a virus that is rampaging through theU.S.×

President-Elect Joe Biden will have his work cut out for him.

The United States added 126,480 new positive coronavirus cases on Friday, according to data released Saturday by the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. It's the third day in a row that the U.S. has set a daily record, bringing the total number of infections in the U.S. to over 9.7 million. More than 236,000 have died.

Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris have laid out a comprehensive plan to try to get the virus under control, including the creation of a "Pandemic Testing Board" to produce and distribute tens of millions of tests, and a U.S. Public Health Jobs Corp to mobilize at least 100,000 Americans to help with contact tracing and protecting at-risk populations.

But it's unclear how effective these steps will be against a virus that is poised to surge even further as colder weather sets in and people retreat indoors.

"You have to be really worried what January is going to look like, what December is going to look like right now given the way this is rising," former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Friday.

More than half the country is seeing unchecked community spread, defined as more than 25 daily new cases per 100,000 people. Close to 55,000 people were in the hospital Friday with COVID-19, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

"Hospitals are definitely strained and societal measures remain relatively liberal," Dr. David Brett-Major, professor of epidemiology at the University of Nebraska, told the New York Times. "You just don't get the feeling that folks are committed to enforcing taking it seriously."

The challenge of containing the latest surge in cases has extended to the White House itself, with the news late Friday that President Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, has tested positive for the coronavirus. Meadows is just the latest member of the president's circle to contract the virus. Multiple White House staffers and campaign aides have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent weeks, and the president himself was hospitalized for COVID-19 in October.

Although America is the world leader in coronavirus infections, other countries are catching up. Many European countries have seen exponential growth in recent weeks. National lockdowns are in effect in several countries there, including England, Greece and Italy. Charts of the virus's spread in France, Poland and Germany all show classic hockey-stick shaped graphs, indicating the virus is nowhere near under control.

France had the second highest rate of infections in the world on Friday, with 60,727 cases and 828 deaths. French nursing homes alone have seen more than 400 COVID-19 deaths in the past week, as some residents are once again cut off from their families.

"I cry every day," 81-year-old Paris nursing home resident Patricia Deliry told the Associated Press.

France is among several European countries that have imposed new lockdowns in the face of continued infections. But at least in France, the public isn't observing the lockdown as stringently as it did during the country's first lockdown, in March. According to Le Monde, during the week since the latest lockdown has been in place, there has been about a 30% drop in vehicle traffic — compared to an 80% drop in traffic during the first lockdown.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Matthew S. Schwartz is a reporter with NPR's news desk. Before coming to NPR, Schwartz worked as a reporter for Washington, DC, member station WAMU, where he won the national Edward R. Murrow award for feature reporting in large market radio. Previously, Schwartz worked as a technology reporter covering the intricacies of Internet regulation. In a past life, Schwartz was a Washington telecom lawyer. He got his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, and his B.A. from the University of Michigan ("Go Blue!").