Georgia, South Carolina suffer as U.S. sees new high in COVID-19 deaths

Published: Jan. 8, 2021 at 9:17 AM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The U.S. has reached a new high in coronavirus deaths in a single day as COVID-19 surges in every state.

In the past two weeks, the U.S. has seen its five deadliest days of the pandemic, CNN reported.

There were more than 4,000 virus-related deaths reported Thursday. That came a day after the U.S. had set a new high of 3,900.

COVID-19 has now claimed more than 365,000 lives in the U.S., according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

CNN reports that projections indicate nearly 115,000 people more could dies in the next four weeks, according to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

In the two-state region, South Carolina shattered its previous record with 4,986 new confirmed cases on Friday and 28 additional confirmed deaths. This brings the total number of people with confirmed cases since the outbreak began to 315,353 and confirmed deaths to 5,217.

And Georgia saw another grim day for new daily cases on Friday. The Peach State reported 10,393 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Friday, Jan. 8, with 80 new deaths.

This brings the total to 620,247 confirmed cases in the state since the pandemic began. At least 10,180 coronavirus-related deaths have been reported across the state.

Across the nation

Cases and deaths are soaring in California, Arizona, Texas and Florida. Those four states had a combined nearly 1,500 deaths and 80,000 cases on Thursday – figures that were comparable to nationwide totals in October.

Many hospitals in Los Angeles and other hard-hit areas are struggling to keep up and warned they may need to ration care as intensive care beds dwindle. Many nurses already stretched thin are now caring for more patients than typically allowed under state law after the state began issuing waivers that allow hospitals to temporarily bypass a strict nurse-to-patient ratio law.

The biggest fear is that hospitals will be tipped into rationing care in a few weeks when people who ignored social distancing rules to gather with friends and relatives for Christmas and New Year’s Eve start showing up for medical care.

In Los Angeles County at the Henry Mayo New Hall in Valencia, nurse Nerissa Black says her hospital is overwhelmed with patients, comparing the situation to New York at the beginning of the pandemic.

She has worked there for seven years and staffs the telemetry unit where she is assigned six patients. She essentially can spend 10 minutes with each of them per hour, which includes the time it takes for her to change her personal protective equipment and document and coordinate their care.

“It’s very hard to decide which one should I go see first: the patient who has chest pain or the patient whose oxygen level is dropping,” she said, speaking on a day when she where she wasn’t working after getting the second shot of the Pfizer vaccine.

At St. Joseph Hospital south of Los Angeles, nurses in the COVID-19 ward describe being overwhelmed as the death toll mounts.

“Just today we had two deaths on this unit. And that’s pretty much the norm,” said Caroline Brandenburger. “I usually see one to two every shift. Super sad.”

“They fight every day, and they struggle to breathe every day even with tons of oxygen. And then you just see them die,” Brandenburger said. “They just die.”

The outbreak has taken another turn for the worse in Arizona, with the state now leading the nation with the highest COVID-19 diagnosis rate over the past week. From Dec. 30 to Jan. 6, one in every 115 people was diagnosed with the virus.

More than 132,000 people nationwide are hospitalized with the virus.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms for up to three weeks, although older adults and people with existing health problems can face severe illness and death. The vast majority of people recover.

From reports by WRDW/WAGT, CNN and The Associated Press