With more than 100,000 people hospitalized, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, Anthony Fauci, told CNN he feared widespread holiday travel and gatherings could cause a “surge upon a surge.”
As a year like no other draws to a close, the United States is experiencing a split-screen moment: Vaccinations are underway, offering hope of an end to the pandemic, but infections, hospitalizations and deaths have reached record numbers.
Nearly 16 million first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are scheduled for distribution over the next week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The supply will cover almost 5 percent of the country and is enough for about three-quarters of the medical workers and nursing home residents and staff, according to Washington Post analysis.
At the same time, around 200,000 new coronavirus cases have been reported daily in recent weeks, with a record high of 252,431 on Dec. 17. The nation’s overall caseload surpassed 19 million on Sunday. Hospitalizations have exceeded 100,000 since the start of December and hit a peak of 119,000 on Dec. 23. Deaths are averaging more than 2,000 per day; the deadliest day was Dec. 17, with 3,406 fatalities reported.
Amid such a surge, Fauci said he believes the worst of the pandemic is still ahead, especially following the winter holiday season. He said an increase in cases could overwhelm already stressed health-care systems.
“If you put more pressure on the system by what might be a post-seasonal surge because of the traveling and the likely congregating of people for the good, warm purposes of being together for the holidays — it’s very tough for people to not do that,” he said. “And yet even though we advise people not to, it’s going to happen. So I share the concern of President-elect Biden that as we get into the next few weeks, it might actually get worse.”
During a news conference last week, Biden called on people to prepare themselves for what is ahead.
“Here’s the simple truth: Our darkest days in the battle against covid are ahead of us, not behind us,” Biden said.