January will be worst month for U.S. pandemic so far as post-holiday travel cases seen surging

January will be worst month for U.S. pandemic so far as post-holiday travel cases seen surging

The number of global cases of the coronavirus-borne illness COVID-19 edged toward 86 million on Tuesday and the U.S. set yet another record for hospitalizations, as experts warned that January will likely be the worst month of the pandemic so far due to a surge in new infections after holiday travel.

U.S. airports screened the most passengers on Sunday since March, according to data from the Transportation Security Administration, which counted 1.3 million travelers, or more than half the year-earlier’s total of 2.4 million, as many Americans defied the advice of health officials to visit family and friends and mingle with other households.

The U.S. added at least 196,386 new cases on Monday, according to a New York Times tracker, and at least 2,047 people died, numbers experts feared would materialize if people did not socially distance. In the last week, the U.S. has averaged 214,014 cases a day, numbers that experts had predicted as worst-case scenarios early in the crisis.

There were a record 128,210 COVID-19 patients in U.S. hospitals on Monday, according to the COVID Tracking Project, breaking the record of 125,562 set a day earlier. With just 4% of the world’s population, the U.S. continues to account for about a fifth of all cases, at 20.8 million, and a fifth of all deaths, at 353,640, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The situation is especially dire in Los Angeles County in California, where hospitals are so overwhelmed and intensive-care units so full that the LA County Emergency Medical Services Agency has directed ambulance crews not to transport any patients with low chances of survival and to conserve the use of oxygen for the most critical. Those patients who are taken to hospitals by ambulance face long hours of waiting for a bed to become available.

LA County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer said a patient is dying of COVID-19 every 15 minutes and that things will get worse.

“This is likely to be the worst month of the pandemic in LA County,” the agency said in a tweet. “The surge from holiday gatherings is here and cases will increase due to parties and travelers returning to LA County. We must use the tools we have to prevent more suffering & death and protect frontline workers.”

In the meantime, experts continued to express dismay at the continued chaos being recorded across the country with the vaccine program, which to date has fallen far short of targets.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine tracker, which has not been updating on a daily basis, shows that as of 9.00 a.m. Monday, just 4.6 million Americans had been vaccinated, well below the most recently revised number of 20 million promised by end-December. Just 15.4 million doses have been distributed to states. The administration of President Donald Trump had originally promised 100 million doses would be delivered by year-end.

See also: Here’s what Fauci has to say about President Trump’s claim that the number of COVID-19 deaths is ‘exaggerated’ and ‘fake news’

Trump has left it to states to administer the vaccine program — tweeting that it was “up to the states to administer” and then calling some states “very slow” — meaning that stressed state health departments, which have already had to deal with testing, contact tracing, public information campaigns and deciding when or whether schools or businesses should be open or closed, are now tasked with handling the biggest public health effort in decades.

Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and professor of pediatrics and molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine, said the poor vaccine deployment is as if the U.S. government had shipped 40 million boxes of IKEA furniture to states, who then found that some assembly was required.

The challenge is to inoculate 240 million Americans by Sept. 1, he told CNN.

“We need to call “an audible” open up outdoor arenas, hire staff, authorize/appropriate funds from Congress. This is not the time to come up small…again,” he said.

There was bad news from New York where Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed a case of the new variant of COVID that has been racing across the U.K. in a patient based in upstate Saratoga County, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The new variant, which is known to spread 70% faster than earlier versions of the virus, was first detected in the U.S. in a man in Colorado, and later in a case in California.

Don’t miss: There is only a slim chance that the vaccine will stop the COVID pandemic this year

In other news:

• The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said considering half doses, single doses, mixing and matching different vaccines, and extending the time between doses “are all reasonable questions to consider and evaluate in clinical trials,” MarketWatch’s Jaimy Lee reported. But the regulator said that making these changes now “is premature and not rooted solidly in the available evidence.” Dr. Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser to Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration program funding research and production of COVID-19 treatments and vaccines, said the U.S. could double the number of immunized adults younger than 55 years old by giving them half-doses of Moderna’s vaccine. A spokesperson for Operation Warp Speed said Monday he was referring to 50-microgram doses.

• A Wisconsin pharmacist convinced the world was “crashing down” told police he tried to ruin hundreds of doses of coronavirus vaccine because he believed the shots would mutate people’s DNA, according to court documents released Monday, the AP reported. Police arrested Advocate Aurora Health pharmacist Steven Brandenburg last week following an investigation into the 57 spoiled vials of the Moderna MRNA vaccine, which officials say contained enough doses to inoculate more than 500 people. Charges are pending. A detective wrote in a probable cause statement that Brandenburg, 46, is an admitted conspiracy theorist and that he told investigators he intentionally tried to ruin the vaccine because it could hurt people by changing their DNA.

See also: Why France’s blundering COVID vaccination campaign is seen as a Macron fiasco and failure of ‘ruling elites’

• Spain is considering using the military to boost its vaccination efforts as frustrations mount over the slow rollout, the Guardian reported. So far, Spain has vaccinated just 83,000 people after starting its program 10 days ago. “At this rate it could take us five years to vaccinate against Covid-19,” public health nurse Antonio Forcada told Spanish newspaper El Mundo. Spain was an early hot spot in the European pandemic. The country has had 1.9 million confirmed cases and at least 51,078 people have died, the Johns Hopkins data show.

• Mexico granted an emergency use authorization to the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca PLC and Oxford University on Monday, the AP reported, in an effort to speed up its program. Mexico has also had a slow start to vaccinations with about 44,000 shots being administered so far, or about 82% of the doses it has received. Those doses are the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and German partner BioNTech SE.

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Latest tallies

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide climbed above 85.8 million on Tuesday, the Johns Hopkins data show, and the death toll rose to 1.9 million. At least 48 million people have recovered from COVID-19.

Brazil has the second highest death toll at 196,561 and is third by cases at 7.8 million.

India is second worldwide in cases with 10.4 million, and third in deaths at 149,850.

Mexico has the fourth highest death toll at 127,757 and 13th highest case tally at 1.5 million.

Italy has 75,680 fatalities, the highest in Europe, and 2.2 million cases. The U.K. has 2.7 million cases and 75,547 deaths, second-highest in Europe and sixth highest in the world.

China, where the virus was first discovered late last year, has had 96,278 confirmed cases and 4,787 deaths, according to its official numbers.

See also: Scotland to impose new lockdown starting at midnight

What’s the economy saying?

U.S. manufacturers said business improved in December for the eight month in a row and new orders matched a pandemic high, signaling they are weathering the record coronavirus outbreak better than other major industries, MarketWatch’s Jeffry Bartash reported.

The Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index rose to 60.7% in December from to 57.5% in the prior month, marking the highest level in almost two and a half years.

Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had forecast the index to total 57%. Readings over 50% indicate growth.

See now:Jobless claims dip below 800,000, but layoffs still high after coronavirus spike

The ISM index is compiled from a survey of executives who order raw materials and other supplies for their companies. The gauge tends to rise or fall in tandem with the health of the economy.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, 0.09% and S&P 500 SPX, 0.28% rose slightly in Tuesday trades.

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