By comparison, the entire month of November saw about 36,964 deaths.
The grim death toll comes on the heels of several brutal months for the US, with Covid-19 ravaging communities from coast to coast, crippling hospital systems and prompting widespread new restrictions.
The authorization of two Covid-19 vaccines earlier in December offered some hope of a light at the end of the tunnel -- but experts continue to warn that while the end is in sight, the pandemic is not over and another surge stemming from Christmas travel and gatherings could be on its way.
More than 616,000 people were screened at TSA checkpoints across the country on Christmas Day alone, and hundreds of thousands more traveled in the days leading up to the holiday. Numbers are expected to climb again this weekend.