The coronavirus pandemic is on track to kill another 115,000 Americans by the end of January, according to one statistical model, which claims that universal wearing of masks and a rapid vaccine rollout could save about 13,000 lives in the next four weeks.
As of Saturday, the total number of U.S. deaths in the pandemic was approaching 348,000, and since March more than 20 million Americans have been infected by the virus.
The sluggish and at times chaotic initial rollout of vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna has drawn sharp criticism from a range of political leaders, including President-elect Joe Biden and Republican Senator Mitt Romney.
Following current trends, the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects that the death toll will hit 456,238 by January 31.
Following current trends, the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects that the death toll will hit 456,238 by January 31
Rapid vaccine rollout would have the biggest impact starting in February, as the vaccines take weeks to take effect. The IHME’s projections of daily deaths are seen above
Healthcare workers wheel a patient into a hospital in New York on New Year’s Day. The total number of COVID-19 cases in the United States since March topped 20 million on Friday
The statistical model predicts that if everyone in the country wore a mask or face covering in public, January’s death toll would drop by about 13,000.
A rapid vaccine rollout would only spare about 1,000 lives in January, according to the model. Since the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both take several weeks to provide effective protection, their true impact would only be seen over a longer timeline.
As of Saturday, 3.49 million vaccine doses have been administered nationwide, according to a Bloomberg analysis. That accounts for just 28 percent of the vaccine doses that have been distributed top the states, and means that 1.1 percent of the total population has received a dose.
It was far short of the Trump administration’s goal of vaccinating 20 million Americans with a first of two required doses by the end of 2020.
Senator Romney, a Utah Republican and frequent critic of President Donald Trump, issued an emotional statement on Friday urging the U.S. government to immediately enlist veterinarians, combat medics and others in a dramatic proposal to boost vaccination efforts.
Fire Chief Colin Stowell (left) receives the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the San Diego Fire-Rescue Training Facility on Thursday
‘That comprehensive vaccination plans have not been developed at the federal level and sent to the states as models is as incomprehensible as it is inexcusable,’ Romney said in a statement that was perhaps aimed as much at the incoming Biden administration as the outgoing Trump one.
‘It was unrealistic to assume that the health care workers already overburdened with Covid care could take on a massive vaccination program,’ Romney said.
He called on the government to ‘enlist every medical professional, retired or active, who is not currently engaged in the delivery of care’ to be drafted into a crash program of government-run vaccination sites across the country.
‘This could include veterinarians, combat medics and corpsmen, medical students, EMS professionals, first responders, and many others who could be easily trained to administer vaccines,’ he proposed.
Romney also proposed a scheme to ‘Schedule vaccinations according to a person’s priority category and birthdate: e.g., people in group A with a January first birthday would be assigned a specific day to receive their vaccination.’
Referring to his experience overseeing the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, Romney also included what could be seen as a pitch to the Biden administration to offer his own assistance, saying: ‘I have experience organizing a major logistical event,’ though adding humbly that it was ‘nothing on the scale of what is called for today.’
Hundreds wait in line to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Fort Myers, Florida, on Thursday. Floridians over age 65 can get the vaccine on a first-come, first-served basis
Biden also took a swipe at the Trump administration’s oversight in a tweet on Friday, writing: ‘Let me be clear: The Biden-Harris Administration will spare no effort to make sure people are getting vaccinated.’
Biden has vowed to invoke the Defense Production Act and ensure that 100 million vaccines are administered in his first 100 days in office, though he has offered few concrete details on how this would be achieved.
California, the most populous state with 40 million residents, has become a leading U.S. flashpoint of the pandemic despite some of the nation’s toughest restrictions on social gatherings and business activities.
The soaring COVID-19 case load has pushed hospitals in and around Los Angeles in particular to their limits, filling emergency rooms, intensive care units, ambulance bays and morgues beyond capacity, and creating staff shortages.
Briefing reporters on Thursday, Cathy Chidester, director of the Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services Agency, called the situation a ‘hidden disaster,’ not plainly visible to the public.
Medical experts attribute the worsening pandemic in recent weeks to the arrival of colder weather and the failure of many Americans to abide by public health warnings and requirements to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel over the year-end holiday season.
Hospital doctors and nurses treat Covid-19 patients in a makeshift ICU wing on the West Oeste at Harbor UCLA Medical Center on Tuesday in Torrence, California
Funeral services are held for grandfather Gilberto Arreguin Camacho, who died due to Covid-19, at Continental Funeral Home on Wednesday in East Los Angeles, California
The crisis faced by healthcare systems has become especially acute in Los Angeles County where one patient is dying every 10 minutes from the respiratory virus, according to county health officials.
Heightened demands of caring for those struggling to breathe has also left many hospitals in the region short on oxygen, both in supplies and the ability of older facilities to maintain adequate pressure flow through ventilators, Chidester said.
She also described ambulances forced to wait several hours at a time to unload patients, causing delays throughout the county’s emergency response system.
To ease ER overcrowding, the county is denying ambulance transport to hospitals of emergency patients who are already under hospice care with do-not-resuscitate directives, according to Adam Blackstone, a spokesman for the Hospital Association of Southern California.
The leading U.S. infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said on Wednesday he was confident of overcoming early glitches in the vaccine campaign, saying America could still achieve enough collective immunity through vaccinations to regain ‘some semblance of normality’ by autumn 2021.