Washington: U.S. deaths from COVID-19 topped 3,000 for the third time in a week as Congress made progress approving a long-awaited financial aid package and the country’s growing immunization program offered a measure of hope.
Tuesday’s death toll of 3,102, the third highest since the pandemic began, brought the cumulative US death toll to 304,187, according to a Reuters tally. The case load of 16.7 million infections represented about 5% of the US population.
The vaccinations with the newly approved COVID-19 vaccine took place on Wednesday, its third day, and were intended for doctors, nurses and other medical professionals as well as residents and nursing home workers.
The vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE was approved for emergency use last Friday. A second vaccine from Moderna Inc could get emergency approval this week.
US officials aim to deliver 2.9 million doses by the end of the week. However, it will take a few months for vaccines to become available upon request to the general public.
Another 2 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 5.9 million doses of the Moderna vaccine could be allocated next week, Health Secretary Alex Azar said on a conference call Wednesday. For each person vaccinated, two doses of the vaccine would be required three or four weeks apart.
Overall, the United States has had the option to purchase up to 300 million doses of these vaccines, Azar said, as well as hundreds of millions more doses of vaccines that have not yet been approved, including some single-dose vaccines.
The US could have a surplus of vaccines in the future if all of the vaccines it has backed up were approved for use, Azar said, which could ultimately benefit other countries.
The Trump administration was also in talks to get additional doses to treat antibodies from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc and Eli Lilly and Co, Operation Warp Speed’s chief advisor Moncef Slaoui told the same conference call.
Political leaders and medical authorities have launched a two-pronged media flash reiterating the safety of vaccines and urging Americans to continue to seek social distancing and the wearing of masks until vaccinations become widely available.
Officials are urging people to cancel year-end holiday gatherings to control the spread. A significant segment of the American public has already shown disdain for basic public health guidelines, and only 61% of respondents in a recent Reuters / Ipsos survey said they were open to vaccination.
As hospital stays set a record for the 18th straight day, exceeding 112,000 on Tuesday, health experts warn that the death toll will continue to rise in the coming weeks.
“It’s not over yet,” said Dr. White House coronavirus task force member Anthony Fauci told CBS News on Wednesday. “We have to stick to the public health measures that we talk about all the time. This is not just going to change overnight … Public health measures are the bridge to the vaccine we will get out of these. “
The virus has spread so quickly that many California hospitals are running out of space in their intensive care units.
The state has ordered dozens of freezer tags for corpses and distributed 5,000 body bags to counties in San Diego, Los Angeles and Inyo, Governor Gavin Newsom said.
The pandemic has also left millions of people jobless as states and municipalities imposed sweeping home stay contracts and shut down businesses.
U.S. Congress leaders on Wednesday approached an agreement on a $ 900 billion coronavirus relief bill that would provide for a new round of direct payments to Americans and new unemployment benefits, according to a familiar
This story was published by a wire agency feed with no changes to the text. Only the heading was changed.