The still-raging coronavirus pandemic reached another grim milestone Wednesday, with the U.S. death toll surging past 250,000.

The quarter-million milestone, confirmed by Johns Hopkins University, is higher than the number of American military deaths in every conflict since the Korean War as well as those recorded during the U.S. Civil War.

The once-unthinkable tally follows a series of alarming records across the nation as the number of new cases and severe infections continues to skyrocket. The number of coronavirus hospitalizations topped 76,000 on Tuesday, the highest figure since the pandemic began. Also on Tuesday, nearly 160,000 more Americans tested positive for the virus and at least 1,707 deaths were confirmed, the highest daily death toll since May 14.

“We are in a war right now, and the virus is winning,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said at a news conference Tuesday while announcing new restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.

Many other states across the country have announced their own restrictions in recent days, including New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned private gatherings of more than 10 people and ordered a statewide 10 p.m. curfew for restaurants, bars and gyms. In New York City, public schools will temporarily shut down starting Thursday amid a surge of new cases in the Big Apple.

The nationwide COVID-19 resurgence will likely disrupt most Americans’ holiday plans, but officials worry that many people will still violate health guidelines over Thanksgiving next week, potentially spreading the virus even further. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, urged the public to “think twice” about traveling and hosting indoor gatherings in the weeks ahead.

“As we get into the colder weather, we should really think twice about these kind of dinner parties where you’re not sure of whether the people that are in your bubble (are safe),” he told USA Today’s editorial board Wednesday. “Then you’re going to start seeing these unanticipated infections related to innocent home gatherings, particularly as we head into the holiday season.”

The U.S. death toll is the highest in the world and remains far ahead of Brazil’s nearly 167,000 deaths and India’s 131,000. No other country has recorded more than 100,000 deaths since the pandemic began, though Mexico is quickly approaching that number.

Wednesday’s tragic total came eight months after Fauci warned the U.S. could see “between 100,000 and 200,000” deaths before the pandemic was over, a startling projection that became a reality nearly two months ago.

The number is likely to explode through the winter, experts have warned.

A recent study found that the U.S. coronavirus death toll could double, to around 500,000, by the end of February. The same study, conducted by researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, also found that universal mask use could slash that projection by nearly 130,000.


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