United States reported a record-high number of infections and record hospitalisations since the pandemic first stuck in March.
The number of people in hospital passed 100,000 for the first time, a figure that has doubled since early November.
New cases load rose by a record 195,695 on Wednesday, and the daily death toll of 2,733 was close to a new high.
Nationwide, infections are now closing in on 14 million, with more than 264,000 deaths.
Figures have continued to soar in recent weeks, with around a million new infections reported every week in November or about 99 every minute.
In response to surging numbers, US authorities have warned that the country’s healthcare system faces an unprecedented strain this winter.
“The reality is that December, January and February are going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation,” said Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
California, Texas and Florida – the three most populous US states are among the worst-affected areas of the country, and have each registered more than one million cases.
In the city of Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti issued an emergency order for residents to stay home with immediate affect, following an unprecedented surge of infections.
A similar order is already in place in Los Angeles county – the current epicentre of America’s outbreak where some hospitals are already approaching full capacity. Authorities reported 5,987 cases on Tuesday, bringing the county’s total to 414,185.
Authorities fear for the numbers rising over the next few days because many people travelled over the Thanksgiving holiday, ignoring government advice.
The CDC has urged people to refrain from travel over Christmas.
But the public health body has also relaxed its guidelines for how long people should quarantine after coming into contact with an infected person – shortening it from 14 days to between seven and 10.
Meanwhile regulators are expected to meet on December 10 to discuss emergency approval for a vaccine developed by Moderna. They will meet again on 17 December to address another one made by Pfizer.