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Nov. 24, 2020, 3:11 p.m. EST

U.S. is ‘in the middle of the Fight of the Century,’ says former CDC head as cases rise in 45 states, hospitalizations set record

U.S. has averaged 173,147 cases a day in the past week, and more than 85,000 COVID-19 patients are in a hospital

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By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch

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The U.S. case tally from the coronavirus illness COVID-19 climbed above 12.48 million on Tuesday, and hospitalizations again reached record levels, with 45 states reporting rising infections.

The U.S. added almost 180,000 new cases on Monday, according to a New York Times tracker, and has averaged 173,147 cases a day for the past week. There are now a record of 85,836 COVID-19 patients in U.S. hospitals, according to the COVID Tracking Project, smashing the record set a day ago.

Nine states are seeing more than twice as many daily cases as they were two weeks ago, according to the New York Times. None of the nine — Arizona, California, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Vermont — is in the Midwest, which has become the epicenter of the U.S. pandemic.

“From a health standpoint, we’re in the middle of the Fight of the Century,” Tom Frieden, former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wrote in an op-ed for Fox News.

“COVID won the first couple of rounds and is now surging in much of the country. There are six new cases every second and one death every minute. We hit new records daily, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” he wrote, urging Americans to follow the key safety measures — washing hands frequently, socially distancing and wearing face masks in public.

Frieden argued that closures and restrictions on movement are needed but said they should be targeted and focused on the highest-risk activities and locations. He also said the U.S. needs a robust testing, contact-tracing and isolation network to end the “webs of disease transmission.”

‘From a health standpoint, we’re in the middle of the Fight of the Century. COVID won the first couple of rounds and is now surging in much of the country. There are six new cases every second and one death every minute. We hit new records daily, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better.’

Tom Frieden, former head of the CDC

Vivek Murthy, former U.S. surgeon general and co-chair of President-elect Joe Biden’s Coronavirus task force, called on Americans to unite to fight the crisis.

“Pandemics are best fought together,” Murthy said on #TheBubble podcast, which is hosted by Andy Slavitt, who was acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Barack Obama.

“Moments of crisis like this remind us of old African proverb: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together,’ ” he said.

There was relief at the news that the General Services Administration has cleared the way to allow Biden’s transition to begin, the first move by the Trump administration acknowledging Biden’s electoral victory three weeks ago today.

See: Biden’s pandemic plan: Restore Obamacare, mandatory masks, paid sick leave and free COVID-19 tests

Emily Murphy, the Trump-appointed administrator of the GSA, had come under intense criticism for refusing to cooperate with the incoming Biden administration, weeks after it became apparent that Biden was the winner of the presidential election.

The move will allow Biden and his team to coordinate their pandemic response with current administration officials, and be briefed on vaccine efforts. Last week, Biden warned “more people may die if we don’t coordinate” on the pandemic response.

Biden needs to work on plans for the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, which is expected to start in December if one of the three leading candidates is granted emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Don’t miss: Monday letter from 160 business leaders pressed GSA administrator Murphy to ascertain Biden win over Trump

See also: ‘Not only is this assignment physically taxing, but it may be emotionally taxing,’ says ad for morgue attendants in Texas

An FDA Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet on Dec. 10 to discuss the emergency-use submission made by Pfizer Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202877789/composite PFE +0.14% and German partner BioNTech SE /zigman2/quotes/214419716/composite BNTX +6.29%  last week. The companies have said their candidate is proving to be about 95% effective in early analyses of data from a Phase 3 trial.

The head of the U.S. federal vaccine development program, Moncef Slaoui, said the first immunizations could happen on Dec. 12, if the emergency-use authorization is granted. Slaoui, head of “Operation Warp Speed,” the federal coronavirus vaccine program, said plans are to ship vaccines to states within 24 hours of the anticipated FDA approval.

In the meantime, concerns that Thanksgiving travel will lead to another surge in infections continued on Tuesday, and experts pleaded with their fellow citizens to stay home and not mingle with members of other households. About 3 million Americans were screened at U.S. airports over the weekend, according to the Transportation Security Administration, against the advice of the CDC.

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