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The coronavirus pandemic is exploding around the country with a severity that continues to reach new heights as each day passes. Cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are all climbing nationwide, straining hospital systems and prompting increasingly dire warnings from public health officials.

On Wednesday, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that the coming months could be “the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation.”

The latest coronavirus numbers in the US starkly illustrate that point. Taken together, they paint a sobering picture of a country in the throes of a new surge and sound an ominous alarm about what could come next. The United States recorded its highest number of COVID-19 deaths in a single day on Wednesday, while the number of hospitalizations also hit an all-time high. Nearly twice as many Americans are currently hospitalized than at any time during the spring surge.

Here in Massachusetts, state officials on Wednesday reported the highest single-day number of new cases since the start of the pandemic, at 4,613, while the seven-day average of positive tests approached 5 percent.

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Hospitalizations in New England and nationwide are climbing

Since October, the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 has increased in just about every New England state. In Rhode Island, hospitalizations have returned to the levels seen during the spring surge, and the state has begun admitting people to a field hospital in Cranston.


Hospitals around the country are filling up

As hospitalizations rise, inpatient bed capacity is becoming a concern. At individual hospitals around the country, the number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients is straining intensive care units. Even as beds fill up, public health officials also are sounding an alarm about staffing problems: STAT News has reported that ICU nurses are being asked to care for more patients than they typically handle in some states, and illness among hospital staff is also compounding shortages.

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New daily cases in Massachusetts hit an all-time high as of Wednesday

Along with the record one-day high on Wednesday of 4,613 new confirmed cases in Massachusetts, the state logged 414 new probable cases. During the height of the spring surge in April, the highest single-day number of confirmed cases was 3,079 on April 23. The latest numbers were reported as the state also said the seven-day average of positive tests closed in on 5 percent, a concerning benchmark that government officials in the US and around the world have used as an indicator that public health restrictions are needed.



Christina Prignano can be reached at christina.prignano@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @cprignano.