The number of coronavirus infections is spreading at an alarming rate across the nation as the U.S. government gears up to distribute its first rounds of an approved coronavirus vaccine.
The United States added 1 million coronavirus infections in just four days, bringing the cumulative total of cases to over 16 million on Saturday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The country has recorded over 215,000 cases each day since Tuesday, Dec. 8.
In addition, there were 3,309 new deaths on Friday alone, passing the previous record of 3,054 deaths set on Wednesday.
Areas concentrated in Southern California, Arizona, Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Rhode Island are just some of the states that have seen a substantial increase in coronavirus cases over a 14-day period and have remained elevated, according to The New York Times coronavirus heat map.
Experts have long warned that cases would surge in the winter months as the colder weather forces people to spend more time indoors.
The increase in cases comes a little over two weeks after the Thanksgiving holiday when, despite warnings from government health officials and local leaders, many Americans traveled before or on the day to attend gatherings.
But amid surging infections, the federal government is racing to provide inoculation and slow the spread.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday granted emergency use authorization for Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine. The go-ahead was granted after federal panel of outside experts voted to move forward with Pfizer’s candidate.
In an emergency session on Saturday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend the vaccine for people aged 16 and older.
CDC Director Robert RedfieldRobert RedfieldSunday shows preview: Nation gears up for inoculation following FDA approval of Pfizer vaccine US enters brutal stretch of pandemic, even with approaching vaccines CDC studies impact of ‘forever chemical’ exposure on COVID-19 antibodies MORE is expected to approve the recommendation later this weekend, the last step needed before shots can be administered.
Following approval from Redfield, the first doses of the vaccine will be distributed starting early this week.
Gen. Gustave Perna, the head of President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden team says it’s ‘no surprise’ Supreme Court rejected Texas lawsuit Trump praises FDA approval of COVID-19 vaccine: ‘One of the greatest scientific accomplishments in history’ Giuliani says Trump team ‘not finished’ after Supreme Court defeat MORE‘s Operation Warp Speed on Saturday said that the 145 distribution sites will receive doses on Monday, another 425 sites on Tuesday and 66 sites will get the vaccine on Wednesday.
First in line for the vaccine are heath care workers, long-term care staff and residents and other priority groups.
Yet even when the vaccine reaches the broader public, it will take some time for vaccinations to impact the spread of the virus.
The White House coronavirus task force warned governors this week that vaccinations will not help reduce the spread until the 100 million Americans with co-morbidities can be immunized, which could happen by the spring.
Until, then, the task force has advised that “behavioral changes and aggressive mitigation policies are the only widespread prevention tools that we have to address this winter surge.”
Some states seem to be heeding the warning, as several local leaders introduced or extended coronavirus restrictions this week alone.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom WolfTom WolfUS enters brutal stretch of pandemic, even with approaching vaccines Pennsylvania governor tests negative after coronavirus diagnosis The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – COVID-19 vaccine moves ahead. Congress? Not so much MORE (D) introduced a new set of restrictions on Thursday as the state saw a record in daily coronavirus deaths, and increases in cases among children ages 5-18.
New York City, once the epicenter of the pandemic in March this year, has also raised alarms over its positivity rate. In particular, the borough of Staten Island, which accounts for 5 percent of the city’s population, has registered 25 percent of the city’s deaths overall. The increase in cases and deaths has lead Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoCuomo under consideration to become Biden’s attorney general: reports Cuomo shutters indoor dining in New York City as COVID-19 spikes Economists warn against excluding state aid from COVID-19 relief MORE to shutter indoor dining in the city starting Monday.
Alabama Gov. Kay IveyKay IveyThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Congress moves to avert shutdown as virus talks stall again Alabama governor extends mask order into 2021 Former Alabama state senator warned of COVID-19 in final words: ‘We messed up’ MORE (R) extended her state’s mask mandate into 2021, and Virginia and North Carolina imposed new curfews this week as cases continued to rise in their areas.