The United States could face as many as 100,000 more Covid-19 deaths in less than a month, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although the CDC’s new leader offered a glimmer of hope, saying that “healthier days lie ahead.”
The nation reported more than 4,000 Covid-19 deaths Wednesday, only the third day ever to cross that threshold, bringing the death toll to at least 406,001 people, according to the Johns Hopkins tracking data.
And by February 13, that number could reach 508,000, according to an ensemble forecast published by the CDC. The last forecast, on January 13, projected up to 477,000 deaths by February 6.
Meantime, vaccines have begun to be distributed, but there remain significant challenges with the supply across the country, according to state officials.
New CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on Wednesday described the toll of the pandemic as “truly heartbreaking” but that “healthier days lie ahead” — although that getting there would require a rapid acceleration of testing, surveillance and vaccination.
She said the agency will be conducting a review of all of its guidance regarding the pandemic, so “people can make decisions and take action based upon the best available evidence.”
To alleviate the financial burdens, the CDC will also extend a federal moratorium preventing the eviction of some people from their homes until March 31.
Also on Wednesday, President Joe Biden announced the US will rejoin the World Health Organization. His administration will also continue to hold regular meetings with local health officials, said Lori Tremmel Freeman, CEO of the National Association of County and City Health Officials.
“We still have a lot of spread and a lot of burden from that spread on our health care systems and a lot of death from the disease. We still have a lot of work to do,” Freeman said.
California deaths and severity of cases remain high
Most coronavirus metrics have been improving in California, an epicenter of the virus in the US. But the severity of cases in the state and the death toll remain high.
California added 22,403 new cases Wednesday, which is well below the average daily number for the state of 38,000.
But it also reported 694 new Covid-19-related deaths Wednesday, the second-highest single-day toll to date. The previous high of 708 was recorded nearly two weeks ago.
In Los Angeles, the rate of death among hospitalized Covid-19 patients has nearly doubled in recent months.
Since November, hospitalized patients in Los Angeles County have had about a 23% chance of dying from the disease, health officials said Wednesday. That rate marks a significant increase from the prior three months when Covid-19 patients had an approximately 12% chance of dying, according to the county’s Department of Health Services.
Along with the fatality rate, the length of hospital stays for coronavirus in Los Angeles County jumped from about seven days between September and November to about nine and a half from November to January, suggesting the severity of illness in those hospitalized has jumped, LADHS said.
“This trend does not mean the virus has become more virulent or that care in hospitals worsened during the surge,” Health Services Director Christina Ghaly explained. “Rather, we believe these trends are because hospitals, facing capacity constraints in the setting of the surge, became more selective in determining which patients to admit.
“In other words, hospitals are discharging more of the lower-acuity patients home with oxygen. They are admitting only the most critically ill patients.”
But with a limited supply of coronavirus vaccine, state epidemiologist Erica Pan said it may take four to five months to get all Californians over the age of 65 vaccinated.
‘A constant pattern of basically running out’ of vaccine doses
The push to get people vaccinated has grown as officials race to distribute doses to meet their demand.
As of Wednesday, more than 16.5 million doses have been administered in the US and nearly 2.2 million Americans are fully vaccinated, the CDC said.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state is administering about 65,000 doses a day — a rate that will deplete its current supply in two or three days.
“What’s clear now is that we will be going from week to week and you will see a constant pattern of basically running out, waiting for the next week’s allocation and then starting up again,” Cuomo said.
The state will receive 250,400 doses next week, but Cuomo urged Biden to increase the supply to states immediately.
“At this current rate of supply, it takes seven and a half months to get enough vaccine for the currently eligible population,” Cuomo said.
In Missouri, Gov. Mike Parson said that the state is on pace with its vaccination plan, but that the National Guard will be activated to help administer it as the state expands eligibility to include first responders, emergency services and those in public health infrastructure.
A mass vaccination team will be set up in each of the nine Highway Patrol regions in the state, he said, and they will be able to administer up to 2,500 doses a day.
The early weeks of spring could see another boost in vaccinations, as the WHO is evaluating 15 vaccines it could list for emergency use, according to a new guidance document.
“I call on all countries to work together in solidarity to ensure that within the first 100 days of this year, vaccination of health workers and older people is underway in all countries,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.