The number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States crossed 250,000 on Wednesday, according to a Reuters tally, as a third coronavirus wave brings a fresh surge in infections and puts immense strain on the healthcare system. The number of people hospitalized with the virus rose to at least 78,630 by Wednesday afternoon, the highest ever for a single day during the pandemic. Governors and local officials have brought in a range of measures in recent days to try to damp down the surge. Cleveland asked residents to stay home, mask mandates were passed in places that had previously resisted them, and New York City’s school district, the largest in the United States, is halting in-person learning from Thursday. Over a seven-day average, the United States is reporting 1,176 daily deaths, more than the daily average deaths in India and Brazil combined – the two countries next most affected. The United States has reported a total of about 11.4 million cases since the start of the pandemic and remains the only country to have reported more than 10 million cases. With nearly 158,000 cases per day, it accounts for one in every 26 infections reported worldwide, according to a Reuters tally. The Midwest is currently the hardest-hit region, based on the number of cases per capita. North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska are the top five worst-affected US states.