One American dies from Covid-19 every 33 seconds as the vaccine rollout hits snags

While hopes of vaccinating 20 million people by New...

Posted: Jan 4, 2021 9:21 AM
Updated: Jan 5, 2021 4:30 AM

While hopes of vaccinating 20 million people by New Year's Day sputtered out, the US now faces staggering new challenges in the fight against Covid-19.

Over the past week, the US has averaged 2,637 coronavirus deaths every day, according to Johns Hopkins University.

That's an average of one Covid-19 death every 33 seconds.

December was the deadliest month yet of this pandemic, with 77,572 lives lost. And deaths are likely to accelerate as new infections and hospitalizations rise.

On Monday, more people were hospitalized with Covid-19 than any other day in this pandemic -- 128,210, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

The US averaged 213,437 new infections every day over the past week, largely fueled by holiday gatherings, health experts say.

But while daily new infections soared 16% over the past week, testing has actually decreased 11.65% over the past week, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

Doctors worry this rampant spread of Covid-19 will push more hospitals beyond capacity and lead to more deaths as the vaccine rollout staggers along.

The possibility of giving half-doses of a vaccine

About 15.4 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the US, but only 4.5 million people have received their first doses, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.

That's far behind what officials had hoped for by now. And it means herd immunity is still many months away.

'We agree that there is a lag. We'll work with the states,' said Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser of the federal Operation Warp Speed vaccination effort.

To help expedite vaccinations, the US might start giving half-doses of Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine to people age 18 to 55, which could make the vaccine available to twice as many people in that age group, Slaoui said.

Slaoui said Sunday the US Food and Drug Administration would meet this week to consider the idea.

But the FDA commissioner and its vaccine division chief said in a joint statement that people need to get two full doses instead of two half doses.

'At this time, suggesting changes to the FDA-authorized dosing or schedules of these vaccines is premature and not rooted solidly in the available evidence,' said FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn and Dr. Peter Marks, who heads the agency's vaccine division. 'Without appropriate data supporting such changes in vaccine administration, we run a significant risk of placing public health at risk, undermining the historic vaccination efforts to protect the population from Covid-19.'

It's understandable that people may want to stretch the vaccine supply, they said. But it's not advisable.

'If people do not truly know how protective a vaccine is, there is the potential for harm because they may assume that they are fully protected when they are not, and accordingly, alter their behavior to take unnecessary risks,' they said.

The two 100-microgram Moderna vaccine doses are intended to be spaced 28 days apart.

CNN has reached out to Moderna for comment.

Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine at George Washington University, said he does not agree with the idea of half doses.

'We have about 13 million doses that have been shipped out to the states, and only barely 4 million doses that have gone into arms. So the bottleneck is not the lack of availability of vaccine. The bottleneck is actually the logistics of vaccinating people in this country.'

It's difficult enough to get some patients on board with getting a vaccine, he said. Going against the recommended dosing could hurt patients' confidence.

'When I see people in clinic, I talk about the vaccine every single day. I'm trying to reduce vaccine hesitancy,' Reiner said Monday.

'And the strongest weapon I have is the data. I can tell people that these two vaccines have been studied in 70,000 people -- more than 70,000 people -- in this two-dose strategy. And when given that way, they're both 95% effective, and basically no one gets critically ill if you get this vaccine. ... Once you break from the data, I can no longer say that.'

Study says holding back fewer doses could cut cases by 29%

Right now, the federal government is allocating about half of the vaccines being produced. The other half is held in reserve to be used as a second dose or as replacements in cases where doses are unusable.

But by reducing the amount withheld to 10% for the first three weeks and supplying a steady dose of 6 million doses per week, the US could avoid up to 29% more coronavirus cases over eight weeks, a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found.

'We find that under most plausible scenarios, a more balanced approach that withholds fewer doses during early distribution in order to vaccinate more people as soon as possible could substantially increase the benefits of vaccines, while enabling most recipients to receive second doses on schedule,' write the study's authors, who were supported by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The researchers modeled several scenarios, with variables including vaccine supply, protection provided by the first dose, and waning efficacy of a first dose if a second dose is delayed.

An emergency department employee dies of Covid-19

In California, health care workers are treating an unprecedented number of Covid-19 patients. Sometimes, those patients are colleagues.

At Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center, 44 emergency department employees tested positive for Covid-19 between December 27 and January 1, said Irene Chavez, senior vice president and area manager.

On Monday, the hospital said one employee who was working on Christmas has died of Covid-19.

'Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by this terrible loss,' the hospital said in a statement. 'We are providing support to our employees during this difficult time,' according to a statement from the hospital.

Over the weekend, Chavez said the medical center is investigating whether an inflatable, air-powered costume may have played a role in the spread.

'A staff member did appear briefly in the emergency department on December 25th wearing an air-powered costume,' she said.

'Any exposure, if it occurred, would have been completely innocent, and quite accidental, as the individual had no Covid symptoms and only sought to lift the spirits of those around them during what is a very stressful time.'

Chavez said air-powered costumes will no longer be allowed at the facility.

'If anything, this should serve as a very real reminder that the virus is widespread, and often without symptoms, and we must all be vigilant,' she said.

'A rough start to 2021'

On Sunday, five states reported their highest number of new infections ever in one day -- Arizona, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Washington.

And over the past week, at least five states have average test positivity rates higher than 40% -- meaning more than 40% of people who take a Covid-19 test get a positive result.

Those states include Idaho (57%), Alabama (46.7%), Iowa (44.6%), Pennsylvania: (44%) and South Dakota (43.8%). For perspective, the WHO has recommended governments not reopen until the test positivity rates stays at or below 5% for 14 days.

In South Carolina, which had a 29.6% test positivity rate Sunday, officials in four counties said their hospitals were at 100% capacity, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

'We're in for a bit of a rough start to 2021,' said Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization's technical lead for Covid-19 response.

But it's possible daily life in the US could be closer to normal by the summer or fall, she said. Other countries are already well on their way -- thanks to quarantining, testing, isolation and contact tracing.

'We've seen countries bring this virus to its knees, without vaccination,' Van Kerkhove said. 'We have the tools at hand right now to actually bring this virus under control.'

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 516486

Reported Deaths: 10299
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison35042558
DeSoto33463432
Hinds32797643
Jackson24926392
Rankin22593405
Lee16523245
Madison14978283
Jones14191248
Forrest13852260
Lauderdale12326323
Lowndes11387193
Lamar10713140
Pearl River9759244
Lafayette8881143
Hancock7848132
Washington7561169
Oktibbeha7234138
Monroe7091179
Pontotoc7060110
Warren6892178
Panola6807135
Neshoba6753210
Marshall6735142
Bolivar6472151
Union645699
Alcorn5950108
Pike5947157
Lincoln5544136
George511080
Prentiss510185
Tippah497983
Itawamba4903107
Scott479499
Tate4786118
Adams4784125
Leflore4756144
Yazoo458492
Copiah458395
Simpson4577117
Wayne443772
Covington435395
Sunflower4331106
Marion4311112
Coahoma4259110
Leake414491
Newton396182
Tishomingo388894
Grenada3796109
Stone366466
Attala341690
Jasper341566
Chickasaw319167
Winston318892
Clay313978
Clarke301995
Calhoun288950
Holmes273389
Smith270852
Yalobusha245847
Tallahatchie232653
Greene225449
Walthall222166
Lawrence220842
Perry214656
Amite210357
Webster206748
Noxubee188843
Montgomery182757
Carroll175841
Jefferson Davis174643
Tunica163939
Benton153439
Kemper145541
Choctaw137827
Claiborne134839
Humphreys132339
Franklin126630
Quitman107928
Wilkinson106139
Jefferson97334
Sharkey65321
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 848779

Reported Deaths: 16185
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1164582005
Mobile744601384
Madison53563738
Shelby38454371
Baldwin38215589
Tuscaloosa36172644
Montgomery34573782
Lee25690264
Calhoun22636520
Morgan22548411
Etowah20075520
Marshall18865318
Houston17795426
St. Clair16968359
Limestone16206220
Cullman16170306
Elmore15952295
Lauderdale15093307
Talladega14267302
DeKalb13095271
Walker12180380
Blount10791193
Autauga10562157
Jackson10221196
Coffee9440192
Colbert9376210
Dale9049192
Tallapoosa7287202
Russell711465
Chilton7098170
Covington6973197
Escambia6969144
Franklin6369108
Chambers5810142
Marion5446132
Dallas5306210
Pike5135109
Clarke486086
Lawrence4852130
Winston4804110
Geneva4656136
Bibb436495
Barbour370880
Butler3445101
Marengo342993
Monroe338566
Randolph338067
Pickens335090
Fayette332285
Henry321266
Cherokee320564
Hale319589
Crenshaw261878
Washington256852
Cleburne255460
Lamar253555
Clay253169
Macon246367
Conecuh193562
Coosa186048
Wilcox178538
Lowndes178468
Bullock152845
Perry141940
Sumter139841
Greene130745
Choctaw94628
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Temperatures return closer to normal for Wednesday with the shower staying south of us for the middle of the week, but rain chances start returning Thursday and could include thunderstorms, some possibly strong by Friday late in the day.
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