The US set a grim milestone Monday as the country recorded over 200,000 new COVID-19 cases for seven straight days, according to John Hopkins University.
The nation has never hit this milestone before, JHU data shows. Over the last week, the US has tallied over 1.7 million total COVID-19 cases and over 20,000 deaths.
On top of that, COVID-19 hospitalizations have surpassed 100,000 for the last 40 straight days and officials are trying to ramp up the pace of vaccinations across the country.
“We really need to get this vaccine out more quickly, because this is really our only tool,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Experts have long said the best combined defense against surging cases includes preventative measures such as masks and social distancing — as well as widespread vaccination.
Nearly 9 million people have received their first doses of vaccine against coronavirus in the US and nearly 25.5 million doses of vaccine have been distributed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
“We don’t have a public health infrastructure for mass vaccination,” said Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee.
Many states are diverging from vaccine prioritization guidelines set by the CDC, according to a report issued Monday by the non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation, which studies health care policy.
“On some level it’s understandable and on some level, the more people that are getting vaccine, especially two doses of vaccine — that’s more people who then aren’t going to transmit this virus, and we get a greater and greater level of herd immunity,” Offit said.
As of Monday morning, 35.3% of doses distributed had been administered, compared with 30.2% on Friday.
Health officials had hoped to get 20 million people vaccinated by the start of the new year, but the administration of vaccines has met with delays and roadblocks.
“We need to acknowledge that it’s not working,” Gottlieb said Sunday of the vaccination plan. “We need to hit the reset and adopt a new strategy in trying to get that out to patients.”
Gottlieb’s warning came just days after the US crossed a grim threshold for the first time — reporting more than 4,000 new COVID-19 deaths in a single day on Thursday. Since the pandemic began, more than 376,000 people have died in the US and more than 22.6 million people have been infected, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
More people, sites and online resources for vaccines
As the surge ratchets up infection, hospitalization and fatality numbers across the country, officials are working to make it easier to access vaccinations.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom promised Monday to have one million state health care workers, nursing home residents and staff vaccinated by week’s end. This “all hands on deck” push to get the vaccine to more vulnerable residents comes as the state continues to see an unrelenting surge of coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths.
As of Monday, the state has received more than 2.9 million vaccine doses, but administered about 783,000 of them, amounting to just 27% given.
The announcement came the same day California surpassed 30,000 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University data. California is one of only three states to reach the milestone.
In order to loosen the backlog, California plans to use Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Padres Stadium in San Diego and CalExpo in Sacramento as mass vaccination sites, and Newsom said more large-scale sites will be announced in the coming days.
In New York, more vaccination sites have opened, including more 24/7 sites in New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he’s confident the city will reach its goal of administering 1 million doses by the end of January.
On Monday, New York state expanded the people eligible for the vaccine to include those 75 and older, first responders, teachers and school workers, public-facing grocery store workers, transit workers and people living and working in homeless shelters.
New Jersey will have a network of about 300 vaccination sites across the state to assist with its COVID-19 vaccination plan, state officials said at a news conference.
“Our objective and aspiration is 70% of the adult population in the state within six months, that’s 4.7 million New Jerseyans,” said Gov. Phil Murphy, speaking at Rowan College at Gloucester County, one of six “mega-site” vaccination locations.
The Georgia Department of Public Health launched a COVID vaccine locator website in hopes of increasing access in the state that has administered the fewest vaccines per capita, according to the CDC COVID Data Tracker.
The website will not allow for scheduling but will provide contact information for people to schedule vaccinations once available, according to a news release.
The CDC updated its guidance Monday, saying there’s no maximum time between a first and second coronavirus shot.
“You should get your second shot: for the Pfizer-BioNTech 3 weeks (or 21 days) after your first shot; for the Moderna 1 month (or 28 days) after your first shot,” the CDC said.
“You should get your second shot as close to the recommended 3-week or 1-month interval as possible. However, there is no maximum interval between the first and second doses for either vaccine. You should not get the second dose earlier than the recommended interval. ”
The World Health Organization said last week that people can wait for as long as six weeks between doses. However, Pfizer and Moderna say they don’t have any data on how long people can wait between doses and still get good protection.
A deadlier pace than 2020
More than 28,400 new COVID-19 deaths have been reported in just the first 11 days of 2021, according to data from Johns Hopkins.
At this rate, more people could die from COVID-19 in January than in any other month of this pandemic. December had a record high of 77,431 deaths due to COVID-19.
In hard-hit Arizona, the crisis will get worse, said Joe K. Gerald, associate professor at the University of Arizona’s Zuckerman College of Public Health.
“We should expect to set new records for cases, hospitalizations, and deaths over the coming weeks. Policy action is urgently needed to mitigate the worst possible outcome,” Gerald wrote.
He also expressed concern about “the inevitable arrival of the more highly transmissible” strain of coronavirus that was first detected in the United Kingdom and has spread to at least 10 US states.
As of Monday, there have been 72 cases of the new variant, including at least 32 in California, 22 in Florida, five in Minnesota, four in New York, three in Colorado, two in Connecticut, and one case each in Texas, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Georgia.
“If it gathers a foothold, it will accelerate, lengthen, and deepen Arizona’s outbreak,” Gerald said.
On Monday, Arizona set a record with 4,997 people hospitalized for coronavirus-related reasons, according to the state’s data dashboard. Before the winter, the state’s record for hospitalizations was 3,517 on July 13, 2020. The state surpassed that record December 11 and the tally of patients has, with a few exceptions, risen every day since then.
Arizona recently opened a 24/7 site to administer vaccines. The operation at the home of the Arizona Cardinals NFL team is being overseen by the National Guard. Adjutant Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire said at a news conference more resources are needed to implement the idea across the state.
Biden gets second shot
President-elect Joe Biden received the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Monday at Christiana Hospital in Newark, Delaware.
He received the first dose last month live on national television as part of an effort by his incoming administration to reassure the country of the vaccine’s safety.
The President-elect expressed his confidence in the vaccine and encouraged Americans to receive one as soon as it becomes available to them.
The incoming administration is planning to “carefully” ensure people get their second COVID-19 vaccine doses, according to Michael Osterholm, a member of Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
“The incoming administration is planning very carefully to make sure that that second shot is delivered on time,” Osterholm said in a Washington Post Live event.
Meanwhile, a new analysis found that states are increasingly abandoning guidelines from the CDC and taking their own approaches to giving people coronavirus vaccine.
“Overall, we find states are increasingly diverging from CDC guidance and from each other, suggesting that access to COVID-19 vaccines in these first months of the U.S. vaccine campaign may depend a great deal on where one lives,” the non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation, which studies health care policy, said in a report.
“In addition, timelines vary significantly across states, regardless of priority group, resulting in a vaccine roll-out labyrinth across the country.”
Congresswoman tests positive
US Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, a New Jersey Democrat, said Monday that she has tested positive for COVID-19.
A statement from her office said Coleman “believes she was exposed during protective isolation in the US Capitol building as a result of insurrectionist riots. As reported by multiple news outlets, a number of members within the space ignored instructions to wear masks.”
CNN has previously reported that six House Republicans were captured on video refusing masks offered by a colleague during the US Capitol insurrection. It’s unclear whether Watson Coleman was in the safe location with those members.