Amid a record-breaking surge, the U.S. is now averaging more COVID-19 cases per day than at any other point in the pandemic, according to new data updated on Wednesday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Federal data shows the nation is now reporting an average of more than 277,000 new cases a day, shattering the previous record of 250,000 cases per day from last January.
"These numbers are absolutely staggering, especially considering we are two years into the pandemic," said John Brownstein, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at Boston Children's Hospital and an ABC News contributor.
The record average comes after the U.S. reported two consecutive days of more than 430,000 new cases, following soaring demand for tests and a backlog of holiday reporting data.
Over the last month, the U.S. daily case average has tripled, and the nation has reported more than 1.9 million new cases in the last week alone -- an average of about three Americans testing positive for COVID-19 every second.
"The combination of the most transmissible variant to date alongside holiday travel and gatherings is a recipe for record-breaking case counts," Brownstein said, referring to the omicron variant. "These numbers are likely to be a significant undercount given, the shortages in testing and the absence of home test results in official counts."
Although the significantly high case total is due, in large part, to the country's latest surge, a number of factors, including data backlogs from the holiday weekend, and a surge in testing demand, may artificially increase the totals.
In addition, more than 30 states are not reporting consistently over the holiday stretch, which can also significantly skew data.
However, on Tuesday, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told NPR in an interview that given the shortage in COVID-19 tests right now, ultimately, the official number of positive cases is likely undercounted.
The nation's latest surge is widespread, with every state in the country currently experiencing high community transmission. In June, no states were reporting high community transmission.
Hospitalizations are also on the rise, according to federal data, albeit about two-thirds the levels experienced last winter.
Across the country, more than 84,000 Americans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 -- up by 40,000 patients in the last seven weeks. On average, more than 9,400 Americans are being admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 every day, up by nearly 20% in the last week.
With increased demand in testing and a renewed strain on the hospital system, the federal government has deployed surge teams to help to support the national COVID-19 response, from vaccinations, to testing, to clinical care.
More than 13,000 National Guard members have been activated in 48 states to support the nation's COVID-19 response, including vaccinations, testing and clinical care.
On Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABC News' Whit Johnson that it is difficult to know exactly when the country's latest surge will peak, given the fact that so many Americans remain unvaccinated.
"It's going to get worse before it gets better -- that's for sure. We don't expect things are going to turn around in a few days to a week. It likely will take much longer than that, but that's unpredictable," Fauci said.
At this time, 89 million Americans remain completely unvaccinated, and less than a third of fully vaccinated people have been boosted.