(CNN) — For the first time in nearly two months, fewer than 100,000 Americans are hospitalized for COVID-19.
On Sunday, the United States reported that there were 95,013 hospitalizations for covid-19 in the country, according to data from the Covid Tracking Project. And 97,561 patients were hospitalized on Saturday. The last time the number was below 100,000 was on December 1.
However, the seven-day average of new cases is still roughly the same as December 1. Worse still, the average number of daily deaths is more than double what it was then.
January has been by far the deadliest month of the pandemic. More than 95,245 people have died from COVID-19 so far this month, topping the total of 77,486 deaths in December, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Right now it’s the worst of all possible worlds. It is winter. It’s cold, people are closer together, there is still a critical number of people in the United States who do not wear masks, who do not keep their physical distance, “said Dr. Paul Offit, member of the Vaccine Advisory Committee of the Administration of Medicines and Food (FDA).
“I think the next six weeks or two months are going to be difficult. I think we could have another 100,000, 150,000 deaths, “he added.
Offit is not alone in that prediction. Approximately 120,000 more Americans could die by covid-19 for the next two months, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
That is why health experts are urging all americans to strive to wear masks and stay away from others.
And as vaccine manufacturers and officials strive to vaccinate more Americans, they are competing against the spread of highly contagious strains of coronavirus now found in the United States.
More than 26.1 million cases have been reported in the United States and at least 441,300 deaths from covid-19 since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Strains of coronavirus found in the United States
Strain B.1,351, first identified in South Africa
This strain has scientists concerned because has a mutation that could make current covid-19 vaccines are somewhat less effective.
Maryland is the second state to report a case of this variant of covid-19. That person had not recently traveled internationally, the Governor’s Office said.
Thursday, South Carolina reported two cases of B. 1,351. Those two people had no known travel history or connection to each other, state health officials said.
Although current vaccines are believed to protect against known variants, some research has suggested that they may be less effective against strain B.1,351 in particular.
Fortunately, there is an additional cushion of immunity caused by vaccination, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“The good news is that vaccines as they exist now would still be effective against mutants,” Fauci said. “The sobering news… as you get more and more replications, you can get more and more of mutant evolution, which means you should always be one step ahead.”
Strain B.1,1.7, first identified in the UK
UK scientists say this variant could be up to 70% more transmissible than others.
The B.1,1.7 strain has now been found in at least 30 states in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
This spring and summer, southern California and southern Florida will be at higher risk for the B.1,1.7 strain, said Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner.
“If you look at where the B.1,1.7 is right now in the country, about half of the cases that we are delivering are in Southern California and Florida,” Gottlieb told Face The Nation, from CBS on Sunday. “And the cities are the hot spots, San Diego and Miami.”
31 million doses have been administered against the coronavirus
More help is on the way, though I know they will need at least several more months for most Americans to get vaccinated.
While current Moderna and Pfizer / BioNTech vaccines require two doses each, a new single-dose vaccine of Johnson & Johnson May Obtain Emergency Use Authorization at the end of February.
More than 31 million doses of Moderna or Pfizer / BioNTech have been administered nationwide, according to CDC data.
More than 25 million people have received at least one dose, and about 5.6 million Americans have received both doses of their vaccine.
Some states are using mass vaccination sites to get as many arm shots as quickly as possible.
In Washington state, health officials said more than 10,000 people had been vaccinated at those sites with the help of the state National Guard and other partners.
“The goal of the mass vaccination sites is to increase access to the vaccine statewide, ensure our plans are equitable, and protect those most at risk,” said a statement from the Washington State Department of Health.
An argument for delaying second doses
As many people over the age of 65 as possible should receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, essentially delaying a few second injections of the vaccine, said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
Osterholm told the show on Sunday Meet the Press, from NBC, that the change in vaccine distribution is necessary to respond to a possible viral surge in the next six to 14 weeks caused by the B.1,1.7 strain first identified in the UK.
‘We still want to give everyone two doses, but I think right now, before this increase, we need to give as many first doses as possible to as many people over 65 as possible to reduce serious illness and deaths that occur . It’s going to happen in the next few weeks, ”Osterholm said.
“We know that if we get first doses in people, particularly 65 and older, we can really do a lot to reduce the number of serious illnesses and deaths in this next big surge that is coming,” he said.
Although that might delay the second dose for some people: “We are not going to deny anyone the second dose,” Osterholm said.
Recipients of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine are supposed to receive their second dose 21 days after the first. Those who receive the Moderna vaccine are supposed to receive their second dose 28 days after the first.
But the CDC said that Americans They shouldn’t be overly concerned if the gap between their two doses is a bit longer than recommended.
“You should receive your second injection as close to the recommended interval of 3 weeks or 1 month as possible. However, there is no maximum interval between the first and second doses for any of the vaccines, ”said the CDC. “You should not receive the second dose before the recommended interval.”
The World Health Organization said that people can wait up to six weeks between doses. But Pfizer and Moderna said they have no data on how long people can wait between doses and still get good protection.
CDC calls for masks to be worn on public transportation
A new order from the CDC, which requires people to wear face masks while riding any type of public transportation, will take effect Monday night.
The agency said public transportation operators should do everything they can to enforce the mandate, such as allowing only those wearing masks to board and disembark passengers who refuse to comply.
Dr. Martin Cetron, director of the CDC’s Global Migration and Quarantine Division, signed the order.
People can briefly remove the mask to eat, drink, or take medicine; verify your identity to the police or transport authorities; communicate with people with hearing disabilities; put on an oxygen mask on an airplane; or during a medical emergency, the CDC said.
Children under the age of 2 or people with disabilities who cannot wear a mask are exempt.
Traffic authorities in several major cities and states in the United States, including New York, New Jersey, Washington, San Francisco, Chicago and Atlanta, told CNN they are already enforcing the regulations.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority told CNN that “face coverings are required in Metro since May.”
“We welcome any policy that further promotes compliance in the Metro and in all public spaces to combat the spread of the virus, and we welcome the ability of the TSA and other federal authorities to enforce this mandate whenever necessary. appropriate, “said a spokesman.
In California, a spokesperson for Bay Area Rapid Transit said the San Francisco Bay Area public transportation system has had a facial coverage mandate in effect since April.
And in Atlanta, a spokesperson said the Atlanta Metropolitan Rapid Transit Authority began requiring the use of masks in July.
The CDC order applies to all travelers, including those who have had coronavirus or received the covid-19 vaccine.
The order will remain in effect until further notice.
– CNNm’s Naomi Thomas, Maggie Fox, Alta Spells, Sandi Sidhu, Lauren Mascarenhas, Laura Ly, Amanda Watts and Hollie Silverman contributed to this report.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism