For the second consecutive day, the United States has set a record-high number of coronavirus deaths.
On Thursday, the country reported 3,744 fatalities due to COVID-19, data from Johns Hopkins University shows.
This breaks the previous record set on Wednesday of 3,725 and brings the total number of deaths to 342,414.
The figure also marks the ninth day this month that deaths have exceeded 3,000, according to DailyMail.com analysis.
A haunting image captured the magnitude of the holiday surge in deaths as a Maryland Cremation Services transporter brought the remains of a COVID-19 victim to his van from the hospital’s morgue in Baltimore on Christmas Eve.
More than 19.7 million Americans have been infected since the pandemic began sweeping the nation in March, with 229,042 of those infections recorded yesterday.
This is the fifth-highest number of cases recorded in a single-day.
Meanwhile, the number of hospitalizations was the highest ever at 125,220, according to the COVID Tracking Project. This is the 29th consecutive day hospitalizations have topped 100,000.
It comes as a new forecast from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts a total of 383,000 to 424,000 COVID-19 deaths will be reported by the week ending January 23, 2021.
On the high end of the model, that could mean that more than 82,000 people could die within the next month.
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HAUNTING: A surge in coronavirus deaths around the holiday season continues as Maryland Cremation Services transporter Reggie Elliott brings the remains of a COVID-19 victim to his van from the hospital’s morgue in Baltimore on Christmas Eve
The U.S. has recorded the highest number of coronavirus deaths for the second consecutive day at 3,744 on Thursday (above)
For the ninth day this month, deaths have exceeded 3,000. Pictured: Maryland Cremation Services transporter Reggie Elliott brings the remains of a COVID-19 victim to his van from the hospital’s morgue in Baltimore, Maryland, December 24
The number of hospitalizations was the highest ever reported at 125,220 and marks the 29th consecutive day hospitalizations have topped 100,000. Pictured: Healthcare workers treat a patient infected with COVID-19 at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, December 29
On Thursday, the U.S. reported 229,042 new coronavirus infections, the fifth-highest number ever reported
USA: A new forecast from CDC predicts a total of 383,000 to 424,000 COVID-19 deaths will be reported by the week ending January 23, 2021
There are fears the number of infected individuals will only continue to rise as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) revealed that it screened 1,163,696 people at airport checkpoints on Thursday, December 30.
It marks the fifth consecutive day that the number of passengers screened exceeded one million and the ninth day this month that the threshold was passed.
As cases continue to spike across the US, California has reported some record numbers. Los Angeles County alone surpassed 10,000 deaths from the coronavirus Wednesday as California also hit a record high number of fatalities.
Gov Gavin Newsom also announced the first detected case of the new and apparently more contagious variant of the coronavirus in a San Diego man.
LA County Health Director Dr Barbara Ferrer called the 10,056 deaths in the county a ‘terrible milestone’.
She noted that more than 7,400 people remain hospitalized with coronavirus in the county, with 20 per cent of them in intensive care units.
‘Most heartbreaking is that if we had done a better job of reducing transmission of the virus, many of these deaths would not have happened,’ Ferrer said.
Newsom announced an ‘unprecedented’ high of 432 reported deaths, a figure that was likely elevated due to a lag in reporting over the holidays.
He said during a briefing with Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, that he had just learned that the new strain of the virus had been detected, the second reported case in the nation.
‘I don’t think Californians should think that this is odd; it’s to be expected,’ Fauci said of the virus variant.
Fauci also said that if the US is able to ‘diligently vaccinate’ people in 2021, the nation could return to normal life by early fall.
He predicts that herd immunity against the virus could likely be achieved if about 70 to 85 per cent of the population gets vaccinated.
On Thursday, the TSA screened 1,163,696 people at airport checkpoints on Thursday, December 30, the fifth consecutive day that the threshold exceeded one million
‘By the time we get to the early fall, we will have enough good herd immunity to be able to really get back to some strong semblance of normality – schools, theaters, sports events, restaurants,’ he said.
‘I believe if we do it correctly, we will be there by the early fall,’ Fauci said, before urging people to get vaccinated.
San Diego County officials said the infected man is a 30-year-old with no history of travel.
‘The patient became symptomatic on the 27th. He was tested yesterday and the new strain was detected early (Wednesday),’ said Eric McDonald, the county’s medical director for epidemiology. Another person in the man’s household was being tested, he said.
A variant of the coronavirus was found in Colorado on Tuesday. The Colorado and California cases have triggered a host of questions about how the variant circulating in England arrived in the US and whether it is too late to stop it now, with top experts saying it is probably already spreading elsewhere in the US.
One San Diego supervisor said the detection means it is already circulating there.
Hours after the new variant was detected, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria signed an executive order directing stricter enforcement of state and local public health rules.
He said he’s asked police and the city attorney to pursue fines ‘and potentially other enforcement actions’ against those who are ‘blatantly and egregiously’ defying health orders.
Dr Anthony Fauci (right) told Gov Gavin Newsom on Wednesday that if the US is able to ‘diligently vaccinate’ people in 2021, the nation could return to normal life by early fall
Gloria praised residents who follow the rules, stay home as much as possible and wear masks when outside.
‘Many have sacrificed their social lives for the greater good. Others have treated this with a sickening level of apathy as their neighbors died,’ he said.
Hospitals are increasingly stretched by soaring infections that are expected to grow in the coming weeks.
Southern California and the agricultural San Joaquin Valley have what is considered no intensive care capacity to treat patients suffering from the coronavirus. And state health officials remain worried about gatherings tied to New Year’s Eve.
In New York, officials reported a record number of new daily coronavirus cases in the state on the same day Gov Andrew Cuomo announced he will roll back gathering restrictions to allow the Buffalo Bills to host thousands of fans at a home playoff game in January.
New York has been struggling to contain a recent surge in coronavirus cases, with 13,422 new infections reported in a single day Wednesday – its highest daily increase since the start of the pandemic.
Hospitalizations in the state are also now at their highest level since early May after surpassing 7,800.
During a COVID-19 press briefing on Wednesday, Cuomo warned those numbers are likely to jump further following the holiday period.
Bracing for the worst, the governor announced the state was preparing to turn the Jacob Javits Center back into a field hospital amid fears the healthcare system could once again collapse.
The large convention center had been used to house patients back in April when New York City was the epicenter of the virus, but had only taken in 1,000 people then.
But there is hope on the horizon as vaccines roll out. Operation Warp Speed chief, Dr Moncef Slaoui, said Wednesday that a one-shot vaccine could be in use by February if Johnson & Johnson’s jab is approved.
Slaoui said the Janssen could prove to be a ‘game-changer’ for the US. According to Slaoui, Phase 3 trial recruitment for the vaccine has been completed and Johnson & Johnson is currently working with the Operation Warp Speed team to accelerate the availability of the vaccine doses.
‘I think it can be quite a game-changer,’ Slaoui told reporters. ‘We’re hopeful that this vaccine, which is a one-shot vaccine will have equivalent efficacy to those of Moderna and Pfizer.’
Single-dose shots would mean faster rollout, and that people would likely be protected from coronavirus in a matter of weeks after the injection – rather than the about one-month period it takes for Moderna or Pfizer’s shots to reach their protective peak.
But there is hope on the horizon as vaccines roll out. Operation Warp Speed chief, Dr Moncef Slaoui (pictured), said Wednesday that a one-shot vaccine could be in use by February if Johnson & Johnson’s jab is approved
Slaoui said the Janssen vaccine could prove to be a ‘game-changer’ for the US. Johnson & Johnson is currently working with the Operation Warp Speed team to accelerate the availability of the vaccine doses. A man receives a Pfizer vaccine on Wednesday
‘I think it can be quite a game-changer,’ Slaoui said. ‘We’re hopeful that this vaccine, which is a one-shot vaccine will have equivalent efficacy to those of Moderna and Pfizer.’
Both Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccines require two doses and have more than 94% efficacy.
Slaoui also announced that the US is expected to approve the low-cost AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine in April.
The Operation Warp Speed chief advisor, told reporters that US trials and assessments would be complete for approval ‘sometime in early April’.
Meanwhile, the US has only vaccinated a total of 2.6 million people, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed had goals to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of 2020.
More than 12 million doses have been shipped to the US, but the distribution of the vaccines are moving slowly.
‘We agreed that the number is lower than what we hoped for,’ Slaoui said during a Wednesday briefing.
‘We know that it should be better and we are working hard to make it better,’ he added, of the distribution process.
The vaccine rollout in the US lags behind other wealthy nations. In the 16 days since the US began vaccinating people, 2,589,125 Americans have gotten their first dose.
That means an average of about 40 out of every 100,000 people in the US are getting vaccinated a day, compared to 60 per capita in the UK, which approved the Oxford University-developed vaccine made by AstraZeneca on Wednesday.
President-elect Joe Biden criticized the Trump administration Tuesday for the pace of distributing COVID-19 vaccines and predicted that ‘things will get worse before they get better’ when it comes to the pandemic.
‘We need to be honest – the next few weeks and months are going to be very tough, very tough for our nation. Maybe the toughest during this entire pandemic,’ Biden said during remarks in Wilmington, Delaware on Tuesday.
Biden also went after the Trump administration over its vaccination efforts, warning that the project, dubbed Operation Warp Speed, is moving at a slower pace than needed.
Warp Speed chief admits shot roll-out is WAY behind 20 million goal – and there’s no plan to approve AstraZeneca shot until APRIL, despite it being easier to distribute
The US has only administered about 10 per cent – less than 2.6 million – of the 20 million doses of coronavirus vaccine it promised to give to Americans by the end of 2020, despite having distributed more than 12 million doses to states and territories.
CDC data reveal that as of 9am ET on Wednesday, fewer than 2.6million people had received their first doses of Moderna or Pfizer’s vaccines – both of which are difficult to ship and handle because they need to be stored at freezing temperatures.
The bottleneck is caused by officials on state and federal level who have failed to create plans to get those shots into the arms of Americans according to a former FDA official who told DailyMail.com that the failure is akin to dropping the baton on the last leg of the vaccine race.
As of Wednesday morning, the US had distributed 12.4 million doses of vaccine and given out fewer than 2.6 million, according to CDC data updated Wednesday evening
WHAT’S THE HOLD UP WITH THE US VACCINE ROLL-OUT?
More than 12 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been shipped to US states and territories.
But fewer than 2.6 million vaccines have been given to Americans.
A former FDA official, Peter Pitts says the US has dropped the baton on the final leg of the vaccine relay race.
Shots were developed, manufactured and sent to states in record time.
But the federal government did not create a national plan for where states should give out shots, or to whom these shots should go first.
States were instructed to make their own plans – which is fairly typical, with a generalized set of national recommendations for vaccines against flu or measles, and programs made specifically by states.
But now, millions of doses are stuck.
They have been delivered at the state level, but there is an apparent bottleneck between getting them from receiving facilities to clinics and into people’s arms.
The hold-ups came as the US set yet another grim record for the deadliest day yet with 3,700 deaths recorded in a single day – and a new mutant ‘super strain’ of the virus was detected in southern California and Colorado.
While Americans continue to wait to be vaccinated, the UK on Wednesday authorized a vaccine by AstraZeneca that will almost certainly accelerate vaccine distribution there because it is cheaper, far easier to ship, handle and store than the Pfizer and Moderna alternatives.
Yet US regulators have no intention of approving the more efficient shot until April – two months after AstraZeneca’s US trial will have enough data to prove to the FDA that it works.
Other trials have already shown that AstraZeneca’s $4 vaccine is safe and about 70 per cent effective – well above the efficacy the FDA said it will require to approve a vaccine.
But in the US, federal government has punted distribution plans almost entirely to states, where health departments are already stretched thin by surging COVID-19 cases.
The result is a helter-skelter patchwork of last minute plans that look vastly different from state to state, bumping drug addicts and prisoners to the front of the line in some places, while in others, like Florida, elderly Americans are camping out in lawn chairs overnight in a bid to get vaccinated.
Others say essential workers and the aged are being told to ‘call around’ to see if they can get a vaccine.
As anger mounted that only about 230,000 Americans are getting vaccinated a day, President Trump tweeted on Wednesday that states had the doses and needed to ‘get moving!’.
Even Operation Warp Speed’s chief scientist Dr Moncef Slaoui admitted. that the US vaccine roll-out ‘should be better’.
‘We agreed that the number is lower than what we hoped for,’ said Slaoui during a Wednesday briefing.
‘We know that it should be better and we are working hard to make it better,’ he added, of the distribution process.
At least 11.45 million doses have been distributed and the federal government has allocated just shy of 20 million doses to be distributed by the end of next week.