Over the past weekend, the United States surpassed twenty-two million cases and 370,000 related deaths—both figures by far the highest among all countries.
Health officials, however, are anticipating even darker days ahead despite the surge in cases and fatalities in recent weeks.
For a better perspective, according to Johns Hopkins, it took about ninety days for the United States to reach its first two million cases of coronavirus last year. But it took just ten days to hit 2.2 million cases in 2021.
Moreover, in the first ten days of this month, more than 27,000 new coronavirus-related deaths already have been reported. If this rate is sustained, January would likely become the deadliest month—eclipsing December— in the nearly year-long pandemic. Last month witnessed 77,431 deaths due to the virus.
Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, asserted that the outbreak will likely get worse before any improvements are seen, sharing similar sentiments with White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci.
“We’re going to continue to see mortality in the 2,500 to 5,000 a day range,” Redfield said in an interview with the McClatchy news agency.
“This is going to continue to get worse through January, and probably parts of February before we really start to turn the corner.”
Medical analyst and emergency physician Dr. Leana Wen told CNN on Sunday that more needs to be done to make the vaccine rollout more efficient, which could help curb quickly rising infection rates across the country.
“Right now, the issue is not so much supply, but it’s actually that last mile of getting (vaccines) from the distribution sites to, actually, people’s arms,” she said.
Wen added that each individual who received the first shot should be guaranteed a timely second dose. If there are any delays, “that could really fuel vaccine hesitancy and further erode public trust in these vaccines.”
On a more positive note, Fauci told performing arts professionals during a virtual conference on Saturday that he is optimistic that theaters and other related venues could reopen sometime in the fall.
The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases added that the timeline largely depends on the vaccine rollout and if the country can reach an effective level of herd immunity, which he defined as vaccinating 70 percent to 85 percent of the population.
“If everything goes right, this will occur sometime in the fall of 2021,” he said. “So, that by the time we get to the early to mid-fall, you can have people feeling safe performing onstage as well as people in the audience.”
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.