The sad part about the thousands of Americans who will die in the coming weeks from the coronavirus pandemic is that it doesn’t have to happen, according to a health expert.
“Every death we are talking about this afternoon is preventable,” Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN on Thursday. “None of this needs to happen.
“We have the ability to prevent these deaths, by distributing vaccines, maintaining masks, social distance. We just need to get everyone to endure a few more weeks.”
As of Thursday afternoon, more than 328,000 people died from Covid-19 in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The seven-day average of deaths is increasing in 22 states compared to the previous seven-day average.
Experts fear that holiday meetings will bring another outbreak of cases, followed by another outbreak of hospitalizations, followed by another outbreak of deaths.
“We can still save lives,” said Hotez. “Nobody needs to lose their lives in the coming weeks and months. It is a difficult message to convey, however.”
Deaths are projected to reach 567,000 in April
More than 1 million people received their first injection of the Covid-19 vaccine, but an influential model of coronavirus projects that the number of deaths in the U.S. will rise well over half a million, reaching 567,000 on April 1.
The latest projection from the University of Washington Institute of Health Metrics and Assessment notes that the number could explode further to 731,000 by April 1 if states ease the mandates aimed at containing the new coronavirus.
But more than 33,000 lives could be saved with the projected vaccine implantation, the IHME said, and 45,000 could be saved if the implantation were faster.
Across the country, the use of masks has increased to 74%, said the IHME. If it expanded to 95%, there could be 49,000 fewer deaths by April 1.
The latest IHME model comes at a time when the United States is placing its hopes on the launch of its recently authorized Covid-19 vaccines. Operation Warp Speed distributed about 9.5 million doses and administered at least 1 million doses as of Wednesday, according to data from the United States’ Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“With Covid-19 cases steadily increasing across the country, this achievement comes at a critical time and will help protect those on the front lines – our healthcare professionals who care for COVID-19 patients – as well as our most vulnerable: elderly individuals living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, “said CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield.
Vaccinations cannot come too soon to California, which became the first state to hit 2 million cases of coronavirus on Wednesday night – more than all but a handful of countries – less than six weeks after the state reached 1 million cases on November 12 Given the state’s population of 39.5 million, about 1 in 20 people in California tested positive for the virus.
The state’s 7-day positivity rate is now 12.6%, a slight drop from previous weeks. However, 55 of California’s 58 counties remain in the most restrictive purple layer of the state’s Covid-19 reopening system, which has resulted in the closure of many non-essential domestic commercial operations.
Governor Gavin Newsom attributed the recent increase in cases to people relaxing their physical distance efforts and meeting with people outside their homes, especially during the holidays.
A total of 23,558 Californians have died of complications from the disease since the pandemic began.
‘We have an end in sight’
In all, the US reported 228,131 new cases of the coronavirus and 3,359 new deaths on Wednesday, the third highest number of deaths in a single day. This is a devastating “normal” for the United States, which averaged about 215,000 new cases and more than 2,700 new deaths every day last week.
Dr. Andrew Pastewski, medical director of the intensive care unit at Jackson South Medical Center in Miami, attributed the increase in cases at his hospital to Thanksgiving.
“And with the next vacation, we’re very scared of what we’re about to see,” said CNN’s Erica Hill.
But with the vaccine, “we have an end in sight,” said Pastewski.
The government said it plans to distribute 20 million of the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines in the coming weeks, a little later than originally planned.
“It was a big week of vaccine delivery,” General Gustave Perna, chief of operations for Operation Warp Speed, told reporters on Wednesday. “More than 7,800 deliveries by the end of tomorrow, as we are delivering 7.9 million doses of vaccine that have been allocated for this week across the country – truly a tremendous achievement.”
Perna said that about 15.5 million doses of the vaccine have been distributed and another 4.5 to 5 million will be distributed next week.
“We are going to finish these deliveries in the first week of January,” he said.
In addition, health professionals have found that the Pfizer vaccine, a frozen solution that is diluted with saline before being administered to people, can yield more than the five doses initially thought.
As such, Perna said that auxiliary kits shipped with the vaccine are being adjusted with extra supplies to accommodate a possible sixth dose.
“We have adjusted our contract and our kit construction to provide even more capacity as we move forward,” said Perna on Wednesday.
He noted that the kits already had some “extra capacity” built in and that now most of the vaccine administration is taking place in hospitals “where they have access to syringes and needles accordingly”.
“So, feel very comfortable with the availability of syringes and needles and our ability to assemble these kits and continue the simultaneous distribution of the kits with the vaccine,” he said.