The United States recorded more than 100,000 new coronavirus infections in a single day for the first time on Wednesday as the nation waited to learn the results of a presidential election carried out in the shadow of a pandemic.
The election had a dystopian feel even before infections reached record levels.
On Tuesday, voters in goggles and face shields handed ballots to poll workers clad in hazmat suits or sealed behind layers of plexiglass. On Wednesday, President Trump threatened lawsuits as election officials in battleground states labored to count an extraordinary number of mail ballots.
Exit polls showed that voters were more concerned about the state of the economy than public health, according to data collected by Edison Research and reviewed by The Post.
About 4 in 10 voters said they would prioritize the economy over efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Around one-third of voters said they were primarily motivated by the economy — a sentiment that was particularly widespread among Trump supporters, of whom 6 in 10 cited the economy as their top priority.
Health officials nationwide attempted to capture the attention of a distracted nation, warning that the steady increase of infections that began in mid-September is not slowing down, amid lingering uncertainty over potential vaccines.
Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, urged Americans “to do the right thing” and wear a mask in public to protect themselves and stop the spread of the virus as the country heads into the winter and flu season.
In a written statement, Collins referred to a new study published in the journal Nature Medicine that estimated that if most Americans wear masks, up to 130,000 lives could be saved by March. But if mask-wearing continues at its current rate of roughly 50 percent and social distancing measures are not followed, the study found, the total number of covid-19 deaths could reach more than 1 million by the end of February.
By early Wednesday evening, the United States had logged more than 104,000 new infections, even as hospitalizations and fatalities rose.
“We are in the midst of a very serious nationwide resurgence,” Dr. Caitlin Rivers, whose research at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore focuses on improve public health response to infectious disease outbreaks, said on Twitter Wednesday.
At least 17 states — including Kansas, Tennessee, Virginia, Oklahoma, Montana, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Ohio, Nebraska, Minnesota, Indiana and West Virginia — reported record-high numbers of current covid-19 inpatients, according to data tracked by The Post.
“We are again in danger of losing control of this pandemic in Iowa,” Suresh Gunasekaran, chief executive of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, wrote in an urgent appeal to the state’s residents. “Our COVID positivity rates skyrocketed twice before, but this is the first time we have seen rates this high while also dealing with record patient hospitalizations.”
Some hospitals in the St. Louis and Omaha metropolitan areas have started rescheduling elective surgeries to free up beds, while the head of the Arkansas Hospital Association said at a briefing Tuesday that the state was facing a critical shortage of health-care workers as states furiously compete for nurses.
Facing a sweeping second wave of infections, more European countries have ramped up restrictions as the continent’s tally of infections has surpassed 11 million. The Netherlands banned public gatherings with more than two people from different households, while Hungary shuttered bars and issued a nightly curfew, according to Reuters.
British lawmakers on Wednesday overwhelmingly voted for a month-long nationwide lockdown in England, to start Thursday. Unlike the one in the spring, schools and universities will remain open. But pubs, restaurants, gyms and nonessential businesses will close for four weeks.
Until recently, the administration of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was reticent to impose a nationwide lockdown, preferring instead a targeted, regional approach. But Johnson said that, when confronted with fresh data showing cases and hospitalizations climbing rapidly, he had to act. “The curve is already unmistakable,” he told Parliament.
The politicians opposed to the new lockdown — many from Johnson’s own party — say they are too severe and will hurt the economy and civil liberties.
Kate Bingham, chair of Britain’s coronavirus vaccine task force, told Parliament on Wednesday that data on the two leading vaccine candidates — developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca and by Pfizer and BioNtech — should be available by December, the Associated Press reported.
World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Tuesday that while a coronavirus vaccine is needed, other underlying problems that afflict nations worldwide are just as pressing.
“The need for a #COVID19 vaccine is very real,” he wrote on Twitter. “But it will not fix the vexing vulnerabilities afflicting us all. There’s no vaccine for poverty, hunger, inequality, climate change or misguided nationalism. Global commitment to end these scourges is urgently needed.”