President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday urged Americans to remain “vigilant” over the holidays, adding that Pfizer and Moderna’s coronavirus vaccines are unlikely to stop the deaths of “tens of thousands” from the pandemic in the coming months will.
The United States is currently recording an average of nearly 3,000 Covid-19 deaths per day, Biden said during his remarks in Wilmington, Delaware, Tuesday afternoon. The vaccines, which are currently in short supply in the US, “won’t stop that,” he added.
“Putting the vaccination in the arms of millions of Americans from a vial is one of the greatest operational challenges the United States has ever faced,” he said, adding that vaccinating 320 million Americans “will continue for months ” will take. “Meanwhile, the pandemic rages on. Experts believe it could get worse before it gets better.”
US health officials have repeatedly announced that they will vaccinate at least 20 million Americans by the end of the year, in less than two weeks. More than 4.6 million doses of vaccine had been distributed in the U.S. as of Monday, and at least 614,117 people have received their first shots, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines require two doses three to four weeks apart.
Biden was among those who received gunshots and received a Covid-19 vaccine on live television Monday afternoon. White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, who will remain in a similar position as Biden’s advisor on Covid-19 next year, also received a public shot Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus continues to spread rapidly in the United States. The nation has at least 215,400 new Covid-19 cases and at least 2,600 virus-related deaths each day, based on a seven-day average calculated by CNBC using data from Johns Hopkins University. The United States still has the worst outbreak of any other country in the world.
A coronavirus model once quoted by the White House suggests that by April 1, more than 561,600 Americans could die from Covid-19 as new deaths hit record highs in many parts of the country. A worst-case forecast by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation assumes that up to 715,000 Americans could die by that time.
To heighten fears, the UK has identified a new variant of the coronavirus that appears to be spreading faster.
Scientists and experts in infectious diseases are still putting together what they know about the new strain SARS-CoV-2 VUI 202012/01, which, according to the CDC, represents the first variant examined in December 2020. It has not yet been discovered in the US, but the agency said Tuesday it could already be spread across the country unnoticed.
“Ongoing travel between the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the high prevalence of this variant in current infections in the United Kingdom, increases the likelihood of imports,” said a CDC statement. “Given the low proportion of US infections sequenced, the variant could already be in the US without being discovered.”
When asked about the new variant of the virus on Tuesday, Biden said he had asked his Covid-19 task force if further pandemic restrictions were needed.
“One thing I’m waiting for from my Covid team is whether we should need testing before they get on a plane to go home, number one,” he said. “And number two, when you get home you should be quarantined. That’s my instinct, but I’m waiting to hear from my experts now.”