Although the country is now conducting many more tests than in the spring, the surge in the number of cases now reflects the accelerating spread of the virus, not just broader testing.
Hospitalizations, which give a clear picture of the number of people severely affected by the virus at any given time, have increased by 63% over the past month, according to data collected by the Covid Tracking Project. More than 55,000 people are now hospitalized with the virus, approaching earlier peaks of more than 59,000 in April and July.
Treatment has improved dramatically since the peak of the spring epidemic, when more than 2,200 people died every day. Even so, deaths, which tend to be delayed by a few weeks compared to new infections, are now on the rise. The country has recorded an average of around 900 deaths a day over the past week, up from around 700 a month ago.
Mr Biden is set to inherit one of the most serious and complex national crises that any incoming president for more than half a century has faced.
While other presidents took office during an economic downturn, including President Obama and Mr. Biden as vice president in 2009, it is not since Harry Truman in the closing months of the Second World War II a new president has faced a situation as “complex and multifaceted” as the pandemic, said Bruce J. Schulman, a political historian at Boston University.
Mr Biden said controlling the pandemic was the first step needed to bring back jobs, and said on his first day on the job he would move quickly to appoint a “national supply chain commander” and create a “pandemic screening committee,” Similar to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s war production panel.
On Sunday, Mr Biden’s campaign released a first glimpse of its pandemic plan, including a pledge to “listen to the science”. Public health experts have initially praised its coronavirus task force, which is expected to include Dr Vivek Murthy, a former surgeon general; Dr. David Kessler, former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration; and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, professor at Yale University.