Updated Thursday at 11:20 a.m. ET
More than 100,000 Americans are in the hospital with COVID-19, at the same time the nation recorded its worst daily death toll since the start of the pandemic.
Data from the COVID Tracking Project show 100,226 people were hospitalized on Wednesday with the disease caused by the coronavirus — a figure that has been steadily rising for weeks.
Johns Hopkins University, which tracks coronavirus case data, reported that 2,804 new deaths were recorded on Wednesday. It initially reported 3,157 new deaths on that day, but revised the number down due to a "tech glitch," a JHU representative tells NPR.
The death toll surpasses the previous peak of 2,607 deaths on April 15.
The number of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients far outpaces peaks in mid-April and July of about 59,000. Early last month, the number of hospitalizations again reached that mark and has been on an upward progression ever since.
More than 273,000 people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19 since the first cases were detected in January.
News of the record-breaking statistic comes the same day the U.K. announced a major step in its race to develop COVID-19 vaccines, formally approving Pfizer and the German company BioNTech's vaccine for emergency use.
Even with a vaccine in sight, the U.S. continues to grapple with a major surge in new coronavirus infections. Health officials are imploring Americans to stay home for the holidays.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert R. Redfield warned Wednesday that things are likely to get worse over the winter months. He predicted deaths could reach "close to 450,000" by February if Americans fail to take more health precautions, such as wearing a mask.
This month through February will be "the most difficult in the public health history of the nation," he said.
The local battle
Los Angeles County, with the highest number of cumulative confirmed infections in the country, reported 408,396 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. Illinois' Cook County had 310,722 confirmed cases.
The Los Angeles area also reported its highest total death toll at 7,700. On Wednesday, Mayor Eric Garcetti told residents to "hunker down" through the winter.
"It's time to cancel everything. And if it isn't essential, don't do it," he said during a news conference.
The mayor's strongly worded order calls on "all persons living within the City of Los Angeles ... to remain in their homes," and to venture out only for prescribed essential reasons.
Meanwhile, the NBA, gearing up to start its season, is dealing with its own coronavirus outbreak among players.
The NBA and the National Basketball Player's Association announced Wednesday night that 48 out of 546 players tested positive for the coronavirus when they returned to a league-wide testing program last week.
The league and the player's union said in a statement, "Anyone who has returned a confirmed positive test during this initial phase of testing in their team's market is isolated until they are cleared for leaving isolation" under rules established by both organizations.
NPR's Merrit Kennedy contributed to this report.