In Miami, several frontline health care workers got their vaccine Tuesday, while in Vermont, an emergency department nurse became the first person in the state to get vaccinated.
“The women and men who received these first doses represent thousands of health care heroes in every corner of Vermont,” said Dr. John Brumsted, president and CEO of the UVM Health Network.
About 20 million people are expected to get their first shots by the end of this month. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said officials will soon provide a dashboard with the number of Covid-19 vaccinations completed, “so we know exactly how we’re doing on getting shots in arms.”
And a green light for a second Covid-19 vaccine in the US could be just days away.
Food and Drug Administration vaccine advisers will meet Thursday to discuss Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine emergency use authorization. In expectation that the FDA will give the OK, vaccine advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also scheduled meetings for Saturday and Sunday to discuss Moderna’s vaccine candidate and talk about next phases of distribution.
Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine appears to be “very promising,” said Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the FDA’s vaccine advisory group.
“It looks to be roughly 95% effective at preventing disease, including 100% effective at severe disease, about 95% effective in preventing disease in people who are over 65, across different ethnic backgrounds, racial backgrounds,” Offit told CNN.
But the US continues to battle a brutal pandemic that’s showing no signs of slowing down — and that officials have warned will only worsen. Vaccinations will likely not change the country’s grim trajectory in the coming months, experts have said.
For the past week, the country has reported an average of more than 212,000 new Covid-19 cases every day. And for the 10th day in a row Tuesday, the US set a hospitalization record: more than 112,800 Covid-19 patients nationwide, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
And another grim number Tuesday: the country reported its third highest daily death toll since the pandemic’s start, with more than 3,000 new Covid-19 deaths.
Remaining hospital bed numbers are shrinking
The devastating numbers prove the pandemic is still far from over — and the virus is running rampant within many American communities. Strained hospitals across the country continue to see a surge of patients and their available bed numbers dwindle.
Los Angeles County reported fewer than 100 intensive care unit beds remaining, an alarming new low for the nation’s most populous county.
“We must all work together to prevent as many hospitalizations and deaths as possible while we wait for the COVID-19 vaccine to be widely available,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “I ask that everyone stay strong and focus all efforts to stop the surge.”
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “the hospitalization rate is not good,” as the city reported about 2.89 hospitalizations per 100,000 people (officials want this number to be under 2).
He said hospitalization numbers are an “indicator of the bigger problem we’re still facing and we’re going to be fighting for weeks now.”
The numbers across the country could grow even higher if Americans opt to travel and gather again for the upcoming holidays. Experts have for weeks warned against traditional celebrations to avoid further spread of the virus, which could in turn lead to another surge of cases.
Governors across the Northeast and Midwest issued a video encouraging Americans to “double down” on safety measures like masks and social distancing during the holiday season and to reconsider travel plans.
“This may be the most difficult time yet in our struggle with Covid-19, especially with the holidays approaching. Until the vaccine is available to everyone and until we eradicate this virus once and for all, we must continue working to protect one another,” the governors of Kentucky and Illinois said in a video message.
“If you’re planning to travel or gather with other households for the holidays, we urge you to reconsider,” Ohio’s governor added.
According to data shared with CNN by The Center for New Data, more than four million people in the US spent Thanksgiving away from home — including more than 1.6 million who traveled out of state for the holiday, despite an earlier warning from the CDC urging against Thanksgiving travel.
1.6 million children have had Covid-19
As local and state leaders try to navigate a way forward, the American Academy of Pediatrics said Tuesday nearly 180,000 children were diagnosed with Covid-19 between November 26 to December 10 — bringing the total number of children with Covid-19 in the US to more than 1.6 million since the pandemic’s start.
That comes as a new study published by the CDC suggests that even among children and teens, encountering people with Covid-19 and attending gatherings with people outside their household can be associated with an increased likelihood of testing positive for the virus.
But attending in-person school or child care “was not associated with increased likelihood” for a positive Covid-19 test, the study said.
As far as in-person classes go, the US government needs to greatly ramp up Covid-19 testing to get schools reopened and keep them open, a new report from the Rockefeller Foundation says.
The road map, released Wednesday, calls for a huge boost in Covid-19 testing to 300 million tests a month specifically for teachers, students and staff to reopen the nearly 100,000 public schools across the country by March and keep them open.
It says students should be tested for Covid-19 at least once a week and teachers and staff twice a week.
“In the coming months, The Rockefeller Foundation expects an avalanche of pooled, rapid and point-of-care Covid-19 tests that will help allow this type of proactive testing to routinely take place,” the foundation said, “and as testing becomes more widespread, support is growing to use it.”
“We are running out of time,” it warned. “Perhaps no institution in American life is more important to the present and future functioning of society than its K-12 school system.”