The US continued to report more than 100,000 new coronavirus cases a day over the holiday weekend, as experts warned that widespread Thanksgiving travel could fuel a surge in the coming weeks.
Related: Moderna Covid vaccine has 94% efficacy, final results confirm
The number of new Covid-19 cases reported in the US topped 200,000 for the first time on Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University. Since January, when the first infections were reported in the US, the total number of cases has surpassed 13m. More than 265,000 people have died.
There was some good news on Monday, as Moderna said it would apply for US authorisation to use its coronavirus vaccine. The company announced final results from its trial, which it said confirmed 94% efficacy.
Moderna’s data will be weighed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on 17 December. The company said it expected to have doses for 10 million people ready for the US by the end of December. Pfizer and BioNTech submitted an application for emergency use on 20 November.
News of Moderna’s progress came as the number of hospitalisations in the US reached a record high.
According to the Covid Tracking Project, 93,238 patients were in hospital on Sunday, a steady climb from 47,531 at the start of November, putting more strain on workers and resources as winter approaches.
Despite dire warnings from federal authorities including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), millions of Americans traveled over the weekend, as Thanksgiving drew to a close.
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that could cause a spike in cases and warned that the level of infection in the US would not “all of a sudden turn around”.
“What we expect, unfortunately, as we go for the next couple of weeks into December, is that we might see a surge superimposed on the surge we are already in,” Fauci told NBC on Sunday.
Fauci said it was “not too late” for people traveling home after Thanksgiving to help curb the virus by wearing masks, staying distant from others and avoiding large groups.
Between 800,000 and more a million travelers made their way through US airport checkpoints each day in the past week, according to Transportation Security Administration statistics, as airports recorded their highest travel numbers since the pandemic began.
Wednesday was the busiest air travel day since mid-March, with 1,070,967 passengers clearing airport security, the Washington Post reported. In the early days of the pandemic, daily totals fell below 100,000 on some days.
The impact of mass travel and Thanksgiving gatherings could mean a flood of new cases just before Christmas.
“When you look at people who are hospitalised today, they were infected two weeks ago, maybe more,” Dr Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine at George Washington University, told CNN. “And then it takes usually another week for folks to succumb to the illness.”