The US vaccination effort is slowly rolling forward even as record-breaking numbers of people are dying from COVID-19. The novel coronavirus has devastated the US, causing thousands of deaths per day on average for the last several months. On Tuesday, the US saw over 4,200 deaths, the highest single-day death toll of the pandemic so far. This was also only the second time that the pandemic has claimed over 4,000 lives in a single day.
Since last week, the US has averaged 3,300 deaths per day from COVID. While these numbers are stark, experts say they’re not unexpected. After dire warnings from health officials over the holidays, millions of Americans still traveled to see family. As such, the current massive wave of the virus is likely due primarily to the travel plans over the December holiday season.
In spite of the timely arrival of two vaccines that protect against the virus, the US has struggled to hit the numbers officials say will finally slow this pandemic. Health experts say we should be seeing a million people getting vaccinated per day, but the average has only been around 300,000 per day. At this rate, experts warn, it could take years to reach herd immunity and end the pandemic.
The hope, of course, is that the Biden Administration puts a huge focus on the pandemic and vaccine rollout. The Trump Administration has been criticized for their handling of the pandemic, with critics saying that the Republican administration wasn’t taking COVID seriously from the beginning.
On Tuesday, Health and Human Services head Alex Azar announced the federal government was releasing its reserves of the COVID vaccines in an effort to get more people immunized. The reserves had been held back to be second doses for patients who’d already had their first dose. The government decided that they would release the reserves in anticipation of more vaccine manufacturing making up the difference.
This plan was initially proposed by the Biden transition team, though the federal government shut the idea down for being too risky. However, in the face of the glacially-slow vaccine rollout, the government has decided to go for the long-shot bid to increase vaccination after all.
Moreover, Azar has instructed states to open vaccinations to all people over 65 and anyone under 65 with an underlying health complication. Those two populations are the ones at highest risk of serious illness from COVID.