President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday urged Americans to remain “vigilant” over the holidays, adding that Pfizer‘s and Moderna‘s coronavirus vaccines likely won’t stop the deaths of “tens of thousands” people due to the pandemic in the months to come.
The United States is currently averaging close to 3,000 Covid-19 deaths per day, Biden said during his remarks in Wilmington, Delaware on Tuesday afternoon. The vaccines, which are currently in short supply in the U.S., “won’t be able to stop that,” he added.
“Taking the vaccine from a vial into the arm of millions of Americans is one of the biggest operational challenges the United States has ever faced,” he said, adding it’s going to take “many more months” to vaccinate some 320 million Americans. “In the meantime, the pandemic rages on. Experts think it could get worse before it gets better.”
U.S. health officials have repeatedly said they hope to vaccinate at least 20 million Americans by the end of the year, which is less than two weeks from now. As of Monday, more than 4.6 million vaccine doses have been distributed across the U.S. and at least 614,117 people have gotten their first shots, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines require two doses given three to four weeks apart.
Biden was among those who got shots, receiving a Covid-19 vaccine on live television Monday afternoon. White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, who will remain in a similar position next year as an advisor to Biden on Covid-19, also received a shot publicly on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus continues to rapidly spread across the U.S. The nation is recording at least 215,400 new Covid-19 cases and at least 2,600 virus-related deaths each day, based on a seven-day average calculated by CNBC using Johns Hopkins University data. The United States still has the worst outbreak of any other country in the world.
A coronavirus model once cited by the White House now projects more than 561,600 Americans could die of Covid-19 by April 1 as new deaths reach record highs in many parts of the country. A worst-case forecast from Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington projects as many as 715,000 Americans could die by that time.
To add to fears, the U.K. has identified a new variant of the coronavirus that appears to spread more quickly.
Scientists and infectious disease experts are still piecing together what they know about the new strain, called SARS-CoV-2 VUI 202012/01, which is shorthand for the first variant under investigation in December 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It hasn’t yet been detected in the U.S., but the CDC said Tuesday it could already be circulating across the country unnoticed.
“Ongoing travel between the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the high prevalence of this variant among current UK infections, increase the likelihood of importation,” CDC said in a statement. “Given the small fraction of US infections that have been sequenced, the variant could already be in the United States without having been detected.”
When asked about the new variant of the virus on Tuesday, Biden said he had asked his Covid-19 task force whether more pandemic restrictions are needed.
“One thing I’m waiting to get a response from my Covid team is whether or not we should require testing before they get on an aircraft to fly home, number one,” he said. “And number two, when they get home should they quarantine. That’s my instinct but I’m waiting to hear from my experts right now.”
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