President Joe Biden calls on US to 'use the tools' as daily cases rocket to 1 million

Monday's national tally set global record, with 1,080,211 new cases

The US reported more than 1 million new Covid-19 cases on Monday, setting a global record. AP

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US President Joe Biden advised caution but not panic on Tuesday after the country reported more than one million new Covid-19 cases, as the highly contagious Omicron variant continues to spread.

"Protect yourself and we're going to get through this," he said. "We're going to get through it together. We have the tools to protect people from severe illness to Omicron if people choose to use the tools."

A total of 1,080,211 new cases were reported — a global record — although the number of cases registered on Mondays is usually higher than other days because of delays in weekend tallying, especially after the New Year's holiday weekend.

The number may also be an undercount given at-home tests not reported or included in the tally.

Still, the figure is double the number of daily cases compared to the previous Monday, with charts showing a near-vertical spike in new cases.

The seven-day rolling average was 486,000 cases per day as of Monday evening, data from Johns Hopkins University showed.

"Folks, I know we're all tired and frustrated about the pandemic," Mr Biden said before a meeting with members of the White House Covid-19 response team. "These coming weeks are going to be challenging."

Mr Biden's comments come as some offices have returned to remote work, flights nationwide have been cancelled due to cases among airline staff and schools have reverted to virtual learning.

"Schools can and should be open this winter," the US president said, pointing to funding his administration gave schools for testing and ventilation investments. "We have all the tools to keep kids safe."

But the American Academy of Paediatrics and Children's Hospital Association reported a record number of Covid-19 cases among young people in the last week of December.

During his remarks, the president reiterated his administration's pledge to deliver 500 million at-home Covid tests free of charge beginning this month, though no specific start date has been set.

He said insurance companies will start to reimburse people who purchased at-home tests starting next week and that the government is continuing to increase testing services nationwide.

"On testing, I know this remains frustrating," he said, as people wait in queues for hours to be tested. "Believe me, it's frustrating to me, but we're making improvements."

Mr Biden also confirmed the administration's purchase of another 10 million doses of Pfizer's anti-Covid Paxlovid pill, which he called a "game-changer". The order is the world's largest for drug company.

On Monday, the White House's top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci said that the peak may be weeks away.

“We are definitely in the middle of a very severe surge and uptick in cases,” he said.

“The acceleration of cases that we’ve seen is really unprecedented, gone well beyond anything we’ve seen before.”

Despite the record-breaking surge, death rates and hospital admissions in the US have been lower in recent weeks.

With 9,382 deaths over the past seven days, the US death toll has fallen by 10 per cent, week on week.

However, US hospital admissions rates have once again surpassed 100,000, a level not seen since the Delta variant surge in the summer and last winter's surge.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention last week shortened its recommended quarantine period for those who test positive for Covid-19 to from 10 days to five.

The updated recommendation was due to pressure from US airlines that were experiencing staffing shortages during the holiday season, leading to thousands of cancelled flights.

But the CDC's new guidelines do not require an additional Covid test following the shortened quarantine period, prompting confusion among medical experts.

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said the CDC will issue clarification on the new guidelines in the coming days.

“They have certainly received feedback and questions about the role of testing in shortening that quarantine period and they're actually working right now on issuing a clarification on that,” Dr Murthy told CNN.

Dr Fauci said on Sunday that health officials would consider asking people to be tested following a five-day quarantine period.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: January 5th 2022, 4:00 PM