December 7, 2023

Lila Blanks holds the coffin of her husband Gregory Blanks, 50, who has died of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), before his funeral in San Felipe, Texas, USA, on January 26, 2021.

Callaghan O’Hare | Reuters

The United States started 2021 with the deadliest month of the coronavirus pandemic yet.

The January death toll has already surpassed the previous record number of deaths in December, according to Johns Hopkins University, when over 77,400 people died of Covid-19 in the United States. According to the data, the pandemic has killed more than 79,200 people so far this month.

In the past seven days, the country has reported an average of more than 3,300 deaths from Covid-19 per day, according to Hopkins, up 12% from a week ago.

There is hope that the death toll will slow in the coming weeks. The number of new cases reported daily in the US, which epidemiologists use as a leading indicator of whether the outbreak is increasing or decreasing, has steadily declined in recent days as an increase from interstate travel and holiday celebrations appears to be easing.

The U.S. reported about 146,600 new cases Tuesday, bringing the Hopkins average from seven days to just over 166,300 and about 17% from a week, according to Hopkins.

The number of people currently hospitalized with Covid-19 in the United States is also falling, but remains worryingly high. More than 108,900 people were hospitalized with the disease on Tuesday, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project, which was set up by journalists in the Atlantic. That’s not the high point of the more than 130,000 hospital patients reported earlier this month.

However, the potential spread of new, contagious strains of virus in the US, coupled with a slower-than-expected vaccine adoption, threatens to reverse advances in combating the outbreak.

First discovered in the United Kingdom and become the dominant strain there, the B.1.1.7 strain of the virus has been found in a number of states in the United States. Epidemiologists say the strain appears to be spreading more easily and British officials have said it could also be more deadly.

As of Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 293 cases related to this strain of the virus had been found in the United States, mainly in Florida and California.

Earlier this week, the Minnesota Department of Health confirmed the first known US case of another strain of the virus that was originally discovered in Brazil. Another so-called worrying variant, named 501Y.V2 or B.1.351 depending on the epidemiologist, was first discovered in South Africa and worries scientists, since vaccines and drugs against this strain seem to be less effective. No cases related to this strain have been discovered in the United States

To curb the spread of the virus and especially the importation of new strains, President Joe Biden banned most non-US citizens traveling from South Africa from entering the US earlier this week, and increased travel restrictions for Europe, the UK and Brazil.

The president painted a dire picture of the outbreak, saying on Monday that the US “will see between 600,000 and 660,000 deaths before we start turning the corner on a large scale”.

As Biden urges people to wear masks and follow public health measures like social distancing, he is working to push the adoption of Covid-19 vaccines and blaming the Trump administration for the initially slow pace. On Monday, he said the US could surpass 1.5 million vaccinations per day, compared to its previous target of 1 million per day, which the last administration had almost reached.

“Time is of the essence,” he said earlier this week. “We are trying to get at least 100 million vaccinations in 100 days and move in the next 100 days where we are way beyond that to get to the point where we can get herd immunity in a country.” of over 300 million people. “

On Tuesday, he said the government was working to buy an additional 200 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, increasing the U.S. supply from 400 million doses to 600 million, although that won’t speed up the pace of vaccinations anytime soon. He also said the administration will increase the number of cans shipped to states each week by about 20%. Some states have stated that they are able to vaccinate more people but are limited by the supply.