(CNN) — After the first coronavirus case was reported in the United States in early 2020, it took about 90 days to reach 2 million cases.
In that same time frame, an additional 24,260 deaths have been reported.
The US has been grappling with surging cases, deaths and hospitalizations since the holiday season. And with a total of more than 22.1 million infected and 372,428 people killed by coronavirus in the US already, experts warn the coming weeks could bring even more devastation.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the riot at the US Capitol would likely be a “surge event” that will have “public health consequences.”
“You had largely unmasked individuals in a non-distanced fashion, who were all through the Capitol,” Dr. Robert Redfield told the McClatchy newspaper group. “Then these individuals all are going in cars and trains and planes going home all across the country right now.”
“So I do think this is an event that will probably lead to a significant spreading,” he added.
The spread would pile on to an already dire situation.
Thursday was the first single day when the US reported more than 4,000 coronavirus deaths. The spread has pushed some hospital facilities and medical staff to their limits. Some 130,777 Covid-19 patients were in US hospitals on Saturday — the fifth-highest figure recorded, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.
‘Our most dangerous time’
Many states are feeling the strain of the national surge.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said his state was seeing a “real and significant increase in cases and our positivity rate from people’s gatherings around the holiday.”
“This surge that we’re in right now is at least twice the rate, the seriousness, of the previous surges that we have seen,” the governor said Friday. “This is our most dangerous time.”
Hospitalizations are climbing in Texas, where a record number of coronavirus hospital patients were reported for the seventh day in a row on Saturday. There are now 13,935 patients hospitalized in the state, the Texas Department of State Health Services dashboard shows.
The same day, Arizona added 98 new coronavirus deaths, bringing its total to over 10,000, according to an update from the state’s health department.
At the epicenter of the pandemic in the US is California. Saturday brought 52,000 new cases in the state, which is the fifth time the daily case count has been over 50,000 since December 15, according to the state’s health department.
California also reported an all time high of ICU coronavirus patients at 4,939, and of deaths in a single day with 695 deaths reported across the state.
In Los Angeles County, it took only the last four days to report more than 1,000 new cases, according to the county’s health department.
“The speed with which we are reaching grim milestones of COVID-19 deaths and cases is a devastating reflection of the immense spread that is occurring across the county,” Los Angeles County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer said in the statement. “The best way to protect ourselves, slow the spread, and stop overwhelming our hospitals, is to pause participating in any activities that aren’t absolutely essential.
“This is just not the time to go to the shopping mall or to a friend’s house to watch a basketball or football game.”
Biden team announces plan to ratchet up vaccine rollout
At this point, the country’s only choice is to “vaccinate our way through this,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of tropical medicine at Baylor College.
“We are in a race against death right now,” he told CNN’s Ana Cabrera on Saturday. “And that’s why we have to accelerate our vaccine program.”
President-elect Joe Biden will aim to release nearly all available doses of Covid-19 vaccines in an effort to quickly ramp up the US vaccine rollout.
But it could also be risky, since both vaccines by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna require two doses administered weeks apart to be about 95% effective, and vaccine manufacturing has not ramped up as rapidly as many experts had hoped.
The plan is a break from the strategy of the Trump administration, which has held back doses of the vaccines to ensure that second doses are available.
Dr. Celine Gounder, a member of Biden’s coronavirus advisory board, told CNN Saturday the new plan aims to “get doses out as quickly as possible” and simplify distribution.
Officials are not recommending patients delay receiving their second doses, she said. People should still plan to receive the second dose of Pfizer’s vaccine 21 days after the first dose, and the Moderna vaccine 28 days after the first dose.
“So long as there are not any manufacturing glitches, we’re confident that the supply of vaccine will be there when people return for their second dose,” Gounder said.
Asked about the plan, Hotez said he was “all for increasing the number of Americans who get vaccinated.” But he stressed that people need to understand the importance of receiving the second dose.
“I’m just worried people may get the wrong message, saying, ‘Hey, it’s okay to walk around with just a single dose,'” he said, “because that’s not the case.”
Biden’s team is also debating whether vaccine guidance prioritizing certain groups — such as health care workers and residents of long-term living facilities — should be changed, Gounder said.
“Whether we will expand to other groups quicker really remains to be seen,” she said, adding some states have already deviated from the recommendations.
“I think big picture, the goal here is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible and as safely as possible,” she said.
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