The United States posted the truly heartbreaking total of 187,833 new COVID-19 cases Thursday on its inexorable march towards 200,000 cases per day as early as next week.
The pandemic is now so widespread doctors are incapable of determining the clear epicenter of the latest surge, which some call the third wave. Some state and city officials are warning there's so much spread; local outbreaks can no longer be traced back to a single event or venue.
The situation in the U.S. under the watch of President Donald Trump is horrendous.
"I believe this is the most serious public health moment we've experienced since 1918 and the swine flu," said Dr. Michael Osterholm, a coronavirus advisor to President-elect Joe Biden.
"We realize that we have a very dangerous period for the next two weeks that we're going to have to respond to. We're already watching our hospitals being overrun."
In late October, Dr. Osterholm predicted the worst and darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic surging in the U.S. would occur over the next three months without any vaccine against this devastating disease.
Dr. Osterholm, who is also director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota, warned, "the next six to 12 weeks are going to be the darkest of the entire pandemic."
The noted epidemiologist pointed out vaccines won't be available "in any meaningful way" until the third quarter of 2021. And even with these vaccines widely available, only half of the U.S. population has said they want to be inoculated.
Dr. Osterholm predicted that the U.S. will see much larger infection numbers between now and the holidays -- a prediction that is proving all to accurate.
The 187,833 new cases reported Thursday is the highest daily total yet. Hospitalizations Thursday hit a record 80,698, the highest number since the first hospitalization was reported in February.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the death toll hit a weekly average of 1,335 people on Thursday, a figure last reported in May.
The U.S. has reported a weekly average of 165,029 new cases every day, a record-breaking streak that's been going on for 24 straight days, according to a CNBC analysis.
The U.S. first exceeded 100,000 new COVID-19 cases per day only on November 3, Election Day. Infections have kept climbing to new all-time highs ever since.
To add to this misery, hospitals in at least 25 states are critically short of health care workers to attend to the swelling numbers of patients.
"We're alarmed," said Dr. Henry Walke, incident manager at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"One of our concerns is that as people over the holiday season get together, they may actually be bringing infections with them to that small gathering and not even know it," he said.