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US reports most single-day COVID-19 deaths since May

Already, more than 241,000 people have died across the country since the coronavirus hit the U.S. at the beginning of the year.

WASHINGTON — The United States had a total of 1,984 coronavirus deaths on Wednesday, the highest single-day death total since May, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.

The last time COVID-19 deaths were this high on a single day was six months ago on May 6, with 2,349 deaths. The day with the highest record of virus deaths is April 15, with 2,609 -- according to Johns Hopkins count.

This news comes as communities across the country experience a spike in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations. The new wave appears bigger and more widespread than the surges that happened in the spring and summer — and threatens to be worse. 

Already, more than 241,000 people have died across the country since the virus hit the U.S. at the beginning of the year. The United States also leads the world with more than 10.4 million confirmed positive COVID-19 cases.

Of the 190 countries that have reported positive COVID-19 cases, 181 have yet to reach 1 million for the entire pandemic.

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“The virus is spreading in a largely uncontrolled fashion across the vast majority of the country,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious-disease expert at Vanderbilt University.

But there is also some good news.

Doctors now better know how to treat severe cases, meaning higher percentages of the COVID-19 patients who go into intensive care units are coming out alive. Patients have the benefit of new treatments, namely remdesivir, the steroid dexamethasone and an antibody drug that won emergency-use approval from the Food and Drug Administration on Monday. Also, testing is more widely available.

In addition, a vaccine appears to be on the horizon, perhaps around the end of the year, with Pfizer this week reporting early results showing that its experimental shots are a surprising 90% effective at preventing the disease.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday released new guidance on wearing a mask to help slow the spread of COVID-19. It gives scientific evidence of how masks not only protect others, but it also protects the wearer too. The CDC also encourages social distancing of 6 feet in public and proper handwashing to help limit the respiratory diseases' spread.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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