As coronavirus cases continue to soar across the country, setting record highs in multiple states, one expert warned that the worst may be yet to come.
"The next six to 12 weeks are going to be the darkest of the entire pandemic," Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
The United States is averaging more than 55,000 new cases per day, according to data from Johns Hopkins, with multiple states reporting their highest number of single-day cases Friday.
Osterholm made special mention of the over 70,000 cases of COVID-19 reported on Friday, the highest figure since July, saying "between now and the holidays, we will see numbers much, much larger than even the 67,000 to 75,000 cases.”
One of those states, Nebraska, said a record 343 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 after it reported 734 new cases of the virus Sunday to give Nebraska 58,068 cases since the pandemic began.
The state’s rate of new infections now ranks fifth-highest nationally, leading Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts to reinstate some restrictions, including limiting indoor gatherings to 50% of a building’s capacity. Gov. Ricketts has resisted imposing a statewide mask mandate; masks are required only in Nebraska’s two largest cities.
In Wisconsin, a judge has reimposed an order from Gov. Tony Evers’ administration limiting the number of people who can gather in bars, restaurants and other indoor venues to 25% of capacity.
The capacity limits order was issued Oct. 6 in the face of surging coronavirus cases in Wisconsin. A judge blocked the order on Oct. 14 after it was challenged by the Tavern League of Wisconsin, which argued it amounted to a “de facto closure” order for the bars and restaurants it represents.
But Barron County Judge James Babler on Monday put the capacity limits back into effect. He declined a request from the Tavern League to keep the capacity limit order on hold while the lawsuit is pending and declined to stay his ruling while the Tavern League and others appeal his decision.
Evers calls the ruling “critically important,” saying it will “help us prevent the spread of this virus by restoring limits on public gatherings.”
Wisconsin last week set new daily records for positive coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations. To date, the state has more than 166,000 positive cases and 1,574 deaths.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday he plans to make adjustments to coronavirus cluster zones later this week as some areas show cases leveling off.
"The Queens numbers are better than the Brooklyn numbers,” Cuomo said. "Orange and Rockland numbers are still high. We have total flexibility in these zones."
“As discreet areas get better, you can rewrite the size of the zones, and that's what we're looking to do now,” he added. “And if we know certain activities are going to be curtailed, which we believe have been significant generators, then we can do even more."
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a briefing with reporters, said the next week or two will be crucial to preventing a second wave.
"If you’re talking about central Queens, we’ve seen notable progress there,” de Blasio said. "We’re going to be talking with the state about how we analyze that. We’ll obviously want to see a couple more days of data before any final decisions. It’s a little early to project or predict but still it is possible that we could see some action later on this week based on our conversations with the state.”
The mayor suggested there could be another two weeks of work left in the other trouble spots before restrictions could be lifted.
The state earlier this month shut down nonessential businesses and schools, and limited attendance at houses of worship in parts of the state seeing a rise in cases.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.