U.S. studies greater than 4,000 Covid deaths for first time as outbreak worsens

Vice Mayor Alix Desulme, of North Miami City, raises his arm during a prayer for the local lives lost to COVID-19 as a memorial to the lost is unveiled at Griffing Park in North Miami, Florida on October 28, 2020.

Joe Raedle | Getty Images

More than 4,000 people died of Covid-19 for the first time in one day in the US on Thursday as the country reports record numbers and the outbreak grows worse day by day.

The US has reported a record daily death toll for five of the last 10 days, according to Johns Hopkins University. Over the past week, the US has reported an average of more than 2,700 deaths per day, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins data, up 16% from a week ago.

In January alone, almost 20,000 people died of Covid in the country. That set the pace for a month that will likely keep pace with December for the pandemic’s deadliest month yet.

Senior health officials including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, warn that the outbreak is likely to get worse before it gets better.

“We believe the situation will get worse in January,” said Fauci in an interview with NPR on Thursday. He said Americans could still “moderate” that acceleration if they strictly adhere to public health measures like wearing masks and social distancing.

As of Thursday, cases continued to rise rapidly, a sign that more deaths will follow as people are diagnosed, get sick and enter hospitals, many of which are overwhelmed by the flood of Covid patients. The U.S. reported more than 274,700 new cases Thursday, taking the seven-day average to a new all-time high of 228,400, according to Johns Hopkins.

New cases are increasing almost everywhere every day. In 44 states and the District of Columbia, the average number of new cases every day is increasing by at least 5%. New deaths are growing particularly rapidly in Southern California, where healthcare workers are rationing supplemental oxygen and asking ambulances to wait hours before dropping patients off.

In Arizona, too, cases and hospital stays are increasing rapidly, according to Johns Hopkins data, a sign that new deaths may be catching up every day. The Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday that it will be setting up an infusion center to help administer Covid antibody treatments, which have shown promise in preventing hospital stays if used early on in an infection.

As the outbreak grows worse, many Americans across the country are waiting to receive any of the approved vaccines that are now being distributed. Initial rollout has been sluggish, and the US failed to meet its target of vaccinating 20 million Americans by December, as federal officials aimed to achieve.

Federal officials, including Fauci and Dr. However, Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have announced that the pace is expected to accelerate this month. The rollout has already shown some signs of a slow increase in speed.

The US fired more than 600,000 shots in a 24-hour period, the CDC reported Thursday. According to the agency, this is the highest value within a day to date. According to the data, more than 21.4 million doses have been given, but only 5.9 million have been given.

Amid criticism of a slow initial rollout, HHS officials are now urging states to move beyond the first level of prioritization. Healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities should receive the vaccine first, according to the CDC. But HHS Secretary Alex Azar said earlier this week that states should open up to older and more vulnerable Americans if that would accelerate the pace of rollout.

In addition to the pressure to vaccinate quickly, there is the arrival of a new strain of the virus. The new variant, known as B.1.1.7, which was first discovered in the United Kingdom, has now been found in at least seven states. While it doesn’t seem to make people more sick, CDC officials believe it can spread more easily. That could make the outbreak worse and quickly overwhelm hospitals, CDC officials said last week.

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