More than two out of every three people tested for COVID-19 North Dakota are positive for the virus, with nurses who are asymptomatic asked to work in an attempt to curb the spiralling crisis.
The United States set a record for new cases on Friday (local time), with more than 150,000 daily infections as the country continues a trend of more than 100,000 cases a day so far this week.
But in North Dakota, the situation is particularly dire with hospitals at 100 per cent capacity and Republican Governor Doug Burgum implementing an extraordinary order that approved a request by a nursing union to let those who have tested positive but are asymptomatic return to work to ease the burden on their exhausted colleagues.
One out of every 42 people who live in North Dakota has tested positive for the coronavirus this week. Of 6,869 total tests reported on a single day, 68 per cent were COVID-positive.
The situation is also rapidly worsening in other parts of the country.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo imposed a new round of restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus as infection rates climb and hospitalisations again soar.
From Friday, bars, restaurants and gyms shut down on-premises services at 10 pm nightly and the number of people allowed to attend private parties has been capped at 10.
“We’re seeing a national and global COVID surge and New York is a ship on the COVID tide,” the governor told reporters.
He added that contact tracing identified late-night gatherings at bars, restaurants and gyms as key virus spreaders.
Meanwhile, more signs emerged that a second wave could engulf areas of the Northeast, which had managed to bring the pandemic under control after being battered last spring.
In New Jersey, one of the early hotspots, a spike in cases in Newark prompted Mayor Ras Baraka to implement a mandatory curfew for certain areas.
The positivity rate in Newark soared to 19 per cent, more than double the 7.74 per cent seven-day average, Baraka said. The World Health Organization says anything over 5 per cent is concerning.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on Monday announced restrictions similar to New York’s in response to outbreaks among bartenders.
In Maryland, where the positivity rate stood at 5.6 per cent on Wednesday, more than 800 people were being treated at state hospitals, the state’s highest daily count since April.
A record number of people died of COVID-19 in several Midwest and western states on Tuesday, including in Alaska, Indiana, Missouri, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
In Texas, El Paso has brought in 10 temporary refrigerated morgue trailers to contend with one of the worst COVID-19 spikes in the country.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has publicly disengaged from the battle against the coronavirus at a moment when the disease is tearing across the United States at an alarming pace.
Trump, fresh off his re-election loss to President-elect Joe Biden, remains angry that an announcement about progress in developing a vaccine for the disease came after Election Day.
Aides say the President has shown little interest in the growing crisis even as new confirmed cases are skyrocketing and hospital intensive care units across the country are nearing capacity.
Public health experts worry that Trump’s refusal to take aggressive action on the pandemic or to coordinate with the Biden team during the final two months of his presidency will only worsen the effects of the virus and hinder the nation’s ability to distribute a vaccine next year.
The White House coronavirus task force held its first post-election meeting on Monday. Officials discussed the rising case numbers and the promise of a vaccine in development by Pfizer.
But Trump, who does not take part in the task force meetings, remains preoccupied with last week’s election results.
He has yet to weigh in on the recent spike in virus cases that has state and local officials scrambling and hospitals concerned about their ability to treat those stricken.