The records are falling at a time of great political tension. President Trump has refused to concede his loss while largely ceding the fight against the virus to state and local governments who continue to go their own way, and President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. argues in vain for a start of the transition, warning that failing to do so will cost lives.
Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the Trump administration’s coronavirus response coordinator, has been issuing dire assessments, urging Americans to “increase their vigilance” as they await the approval of a vaccine.
She implored Americans on Thursday to practice social distancing and to wear masks.
The national rhetoric is slowing shifting. Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa, a Republican, announced a statewide mask mandate this week after months of insisting it was an unenforceable “feel-good measure.” Iowa has the sixth-highest rate of new cases in the nation.
“If Iowans don’t buy into this, we lose,” Ms. Reynolds said, warning that the hospital system could collapse. “The cost in human life will be high.”