'This is our most dangerous time.' Covid-19 deaths are at unprecedented levels as US cases top 22 million

CNN's Nick Watt reports that while 22 million vaccines have been distributed that less than 7 million vaccines have been administered after US has deadliest day yet of pandemic.

Posted: Jan 10, 2021 2:11 PM
Updated: Jan 10, 2021 2:11 PM

The weekly tallies of Covid-19 cases and deaths in the United States have never been higher, and state officials are warning of more alarming patterns following the holiday season.

The total number of Americans infected with the virus surpassed 22 million Saturday, according to Johns Hopkins University data, and more than 372,000 have died.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said the state was seeing a "real and significant increase in cases and our positivity rate from people's gatherings around the holiday."

"This surge that we're in right now is at least twice the rate, the seriousness, of the previous surges that we have seen," the governor said Friday. "This is our most dangerous time."

Colorado's state epidemiologist, Dr. Rachel Herlihy, on Friday warned of "early signs" of a rise in Covid-19 cases. "We are starting to see the impact of the holidays show up in our data," she said. Health experts believe about one in 105 residents are currently contagious, Herlihy added.

Health officials are also concerned Wednesday's storming of the US Capitol may have consequences for the pandemic.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the riot would likely be a "surge event" that will have "public health consequences."

"You had largely unmasked individuals in a non-distanced fashion, who were all through the Capitol," Dr. Robert Redfield told the McClatchy newspaper group. "Then these individuals all are going in cars and trains and planes going home all across the country right now."

"So I do think this is an event that will probably lead to a significant spreading," he added.

In the nine days since the start of 2021, the US has recorded more than 2 million new Covid-19 cases and more than 26,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The nation has averaged about 247,200 Covid-19 cases a day over the last week as of Friday -- an all-time high, and more than 3.7 times greater than a summertime peak set in late July, Johns Hopkins data shows.

And the country has averaged 2,982 deaths a day over the last week -- the highest figure of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins. This week also saw the first time the US reported more than 4,000 coronavirus deaths in a single day, on Thursday.

Hospitalizations, meanwhile, have been pushing some facilities and medical staffs to their limits. Some 130,777 Covid-19 patients were in US hospitals on Saturday-- the fifth-highest figure recorded, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.

Biden team announces plan to ratchet up vaccine rollout

At this point, the country's only choice is to "vaccinate our way through this," said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of tropical medicine at Baylor College.

"We are in a race against death right now," he told CNN's Ana Cabrera on Saturday. "And that's why we have to accelerate our vaccine program."

President-elect Joe Biden will aim to release nearly all available doses of Covid-19 vaccines in an effort to quickly ramp up the US vaccine rollout.

But it could also be risky, since both vaccines by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna require two doses administered weeks apart to be about 95% effective, and vaccine manufacturing has not ramped up as rapidly as many experts had hoped.

The plan is a break from the strategy of the Trump administration, which has held back doses of the vaccines to ensure that second doses are available.

Dr. Celine Gounder, a member of Biden's coronavirus advisory board, told CNN Saturday the new plan aims to "get doses out as quickly as possible" and simplify distribution.

Officials are not recommending patients delay receiving their second doses, she said. People should still plan to receive the second dose of Pfizer's vaccine 21 days after the first dose, and the Moderna vaccine 28 days after the first dose.

"So long as there are not any manufacturing glitches, we're confident that the supply of vaccine will be there when people return for their second dose," Gounder said.

Asked about the plan, Hotez said he was "all for increasing the number of Americans who get vaccinated." But he stressed that people need to understand the importance of receiving the second dose.

"I'm just worried people may get the wrong message, saying, 'Hey, it's okay to walk around with just a single dose,'" he said, "because that's not the case."

Biden's team is also debating whether vaccine guidance prioritizing certain groups -- such as health care workers and residents of long-term living facilities -- should be changed, Gounder said.

"Whether we will expand to other groups quicker really remains to be seen," she said, adding some states have already deviated from the recommendations.

"I think big picture, the goal here is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible and as safely as possible," she said.

California is struggling

California especially has been struggling with brutal surges in cases and hospitalizations. More than 4,930 patients were in the ICU on Saturday, according to the California Department of Public Health, an all-time high.

And the daily death rates there have been so overwhelming, some California hospitals' morgues are full, and coroners who've been asked to help with storage until funeral workers can get them also are running out of room.

So, the state has sent 88 refrigerated trailers to hospitals and counties to give them the space they need, officials said Friday.

Los Angeles County -- the most populous in the nation -- has been averaging a Covid-19 death roughly every eight minutes, city Mayor Eric Garcetti said this week. On Friday, county health officials reported the most Covid-19 deaths ever reported there in a single day: 318.

Dr. Anish Mahajan, chief medical officer at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, told CNN Saturday that with hospitals already this stretched, he is terrified to think about the kind of surges Christmas gatherings may bring.

"It takes two to three weeks for patients to get sick enough to need the hospital after they've gotten the virus, and Christmas was only two weeks ago, and we're already full," Mahajan said.

Overwhelmed funeral homes are sharing hearses

In Montebello, just outside Los Angeles, the headquarters of two large funeral home chains paint a picture of weariness and despair.

At Guerra & Gutierrez Mortuaries, owner Richard Gutierrez says his six mortuaries usually would handle about 28 services a day before the pandemic. They now are running about 56 daily -- about 70% of them for victims of coronavirus.

At the Continental Funeral Home just a few blocks down Beverly Boulevard, owner Magda Maldonado stood Friday in front of a freezer trailer that she'd recently bought to store dozens of bodies.

She said she feels stress grating her insides. Beyond all the people they're serving, both she and Gutierrez are having to turn dozens of grieving families away.

And because of the crushing demand and government pandemic-era restrictions on gatherings, they're not able to provide normal service for the big working class, Hispanic, Catholic families that they tend to serve -- with a prayer vigil, a Mass and a wake spread over two days. Montebello is a city whose population is about 77% Hispanic or Latino.

"I am overwhelmed. I am with anxiety disorder now, because of this," Maldonado said. "My employees are overwhelmed and tired."

On Friday, clusters of mourners, most of them Latino and dressed in black, were gathered outside both overburdened funeral centers.

Gutierrez said he was grateful to Continental, which is lending him hearses when he runs out.

Pressure to serve so many families well, and sorrow over seeing so many people having been killed prematurely by Covid-19, is leaving him with anxiety, too, he said.

He recalled situations where he'd realize he'd have to arrange funerals for two members of a family, both of whom had died of the virus, such as a husband and wife.

"We'll say, 'Well, wait -- we have the same last names together. Oh my God,'" he said. "It was just unbearable -- and both of them Covid."

Officials fighting vaccine hesitancy see 'overwhelming' demand

Meanwhile, officials across the country continue to administer vaccines and work towards overcoming vaccine hesitancy.

Among them is Dekalb County Health Director Dr. Sandra Elizabeth Ford in Georgia, where officials on Saturday were vaccinating first responders in addition to health care workers.

Vaccines will also be available starting Monday for adults ages 65 and older, Ford told CNN, and demand is "overwhelming."

"We opened up our site yesterday for the seniors, the 65 and older, and in two hours we had almost 6,000 requests," Ford said.

Ford recognized some people remain hesitant of receiving a Covid-19 vaccine. But she believed that as more people get it and share their stories, the more people will be willing to get vaccinated.

"What I'm concerned about is that there's still a population of folks that are super anxious about this vaccine, and most likely that's the population that needs it the most," she said, pointing to the African American community, seniors citizens and non-English speakers.

A similar effort was taking place nearby at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, which is hosting vaccination drives each Saturday in January.

Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, president and dean of the historically Black college's school of medicine, received her second dose of the vaccine on Friday. And earlier in the week, several high-profile civil rights leaders were vaccinated there, including former UN Ambassador Andrew Young.

"We were doing this so that people have confidence," Rice told CNN. "I think we have shown that there may have been some hesitancy, but we are clearly, based on the lines you're seeing, moving to vaccine acceptance."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 314710

Reported Deaths: 7254
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21646260
Hinds20369416
Harrison17949309
Rankin13643278
Jackson13450246
Madison10113217
Lee9986174
Jones8384163
Forrest7689152
Lauderdale7198240
Lowndes6403148
Lamar623686
Lafayette6203119
Washington5341134
Bolivar4802132
Oktibbeha462998
Panola4596107
Pearl River4519146
Marshall4450103
Warren4393121
Pontotoc420872
Monroe4115133
Union411176
Neshoba4031176
Lincoln3969110
Hancock379586
Leflore3498125
Sunflower336290
Tate334784
Pike3327105
Scott316274
Alcorn313368
Yazoo311770
Itawamba300577
Copiah297465
Coahoma295579
Simpson295388
Tippah288768
Adams286982
Prentiss280060
Marion269380
Leake268473
Wayne262841
Grenada261587
Covington259881
George248148
Newton246862
Winston227581
Tishomingo227067
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw208057
Holmes189174
Clay185554
Stone182833
Tallahatchie178941
Clarke178080
Calhoun170932
Yalobusha164638
Smith162534
Walthall134245
Greene130633
Lawrence128724
Montgomery127142
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121829
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107133
Tunica105726
Claiborne102430
Benton100025
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83923
Quitman81116
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67531
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 537813

Reported Deaths: 11024
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson791691529
Mobile41177808
Madison35002507
Tuscaloosa25871454
Shelby25076249
Montgomery24549591
Baldwin21290309
Lee15946171
Calhoun14556319
Morgan14364280
Etowah13890353
Marshall12262223
Houston10602282
Elmore10115206
Limestone10031151
St. Clair9890245
Cullman9730194
Lauderdale9449243
DeKalb8853188
Talladega8325176
Walker7259277
Autauga6971108
Jackson6830112
Blount6750139
Colbert6317134
Coffee5546119
Dale4869113
Russell444338
Chilton4343113
Franklin426282
Covington4138118
Tallapoosa4040152
Escambia394577
Chambers3581123
Dallas3564153
Clarke351361
Marion3137101
Pike311977
Lawrence302298
Winston275673
Bibb263064
Geneva252577
Marengo249664
Pickens234862
Barbour231956
Hale223677
Butler217869
Fayette212462
Henry189644
Cherokee184345
Randolph182042
Monroe178140
Washington167639
Macon160750
Clay156957
Crenshaw153357
Cleburne149241
Lamar143035
Lowndes139653
Wilcox127430
Bullock123041
Conecuh110629
Coosa108928
Perry107826
Sumter104932
Greene92634
Choctaw61024
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Columbus
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Oxford
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High pressure will continue to dominate our weather forecast for this weekend. This will keep our area filled with plenty of sunshine. However, there will be some changes next week in our weahter forecast as low pressure brings back some chances for showers and thunderstorms.
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