Maps tracking new coronavirus infections in the continental United States were bathed in a sea of red on Friday morning, with every state showing the virus spreading with worrying speed and health care workers bracing for more trying days ahead.
More than 250,000 people have died in the United States, a number that grew by another 1,962 on Thursday. The Covid Tracking Project reported that more than 80,000 people were in the hospital, the highest number since the pandemic began.
An urgent message from officials in El Paso County, Texas, seeking to hire a temporary morgue attendant drove home the reality of what the soaring numbers will mean for communities across the country.
“All applicants must be able to lift between 100 to 400 pounds, with assistance,” the job notice said, according to The Texas Tribune. “Not only is the assignment physically taxing, but it may be emotionally taxing as well.”
As the picture across the country grew more dire, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned people against traveling and visiting family for the Thanksgiving holiday, the White House coronavirus task force appeared in public for the first time in months, along with Vice President Mike Pence, who said the country was in fine shape.
“America has never been more prepared to combat this virus than we are today,” Mr. Pence declared. “We approach this moment with the confidence of experience. We know the American people know what to do.”
He did not wear a mask and did not take questions.
By contrast, the Trump administration’s coronavirus response coordinator, Dr. Deborah L. Birx, appearing at the same news briefing, issued a dire assessment of the pandemic, urging Americans to “increase their vigilance” as they await the approval of a vaccine.
Dr. Birx came armed with alarming statistics and a still-more-alarming map of the country that was a vast expanse of bright red.
She implored Americans to practice social distancing and to wear masks, one of which she wore herself as she delivered her remarks.
“Every American needs to be vigilant in this moment,” she said, “because we know when you are we can mitigate this virus and stop the spread together.”
But togetherness eluded the politically divided nation. State and local governments continued to go their own way in fighting the pandemic, and President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. was still arguing in vain for the access that might prepare him to do his job.
After meeting with health care workers on Thursday, he lambasted President Trump for blocking “access to all the information we need” about vaccinations and other virus data.
“There is no excuse not to share the data and let us begin to plan,” he said.
Mr. Biden vowed quick action after he takes office but promised not to impose a national shutdown. Asked about the president’s erratic behavior as he fights to overturn the results of a free and fair election, Mr. Biden responded with two words: “Totally irresponsible.”