Despite widespread vaccination hopes this year, experts warn the start of 2021 will be a particularly difficult time in this pandemic.
It turned out that the first two weeks were terrible.
The United States just broke the all-time record for most Covid-19 infections, hospitalizations, and reported deaths in one day:
– As of January 2, a record-high 302,506 new infections were reported in one day, according to Johns Hopkins University.
That’s an average of 3.5 people infected every second.
– As of January 6, a record high of 132,447 patients were hospitalized with Covid-19, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
Many hospitals are now overfilled, meaning even those without Covid-19 – say, victims of a car accident – may not get immediate treatment.
– As of January 12, a record-high 4,462 deaths from Covid-19 were reported in just one day, according to Johns Hopkins.
A Boeing 747 can carry about 400 passengers. That means that in one day, the US deaths from Covid-19 are the equivalent of 11 jumbo jets that crash, killing everyone on board.
Why this happened?
People let their guard down pandemic exhaustion. And many of them are fed up with getting sick prevention.
Now that the weather is cooler, more people are socializing indoors. And the coronavirus is mainly spread during close contact with other people via respiratory droplets – generated by a person talking, coughing, singing or even breathing.
Sometimes, virus particles can “lingering in the air for several minutes to several hours, “said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Maybe this virus capable of infecting people further than 6 feet from an infected person or after that person has left the room, “says the CDC.
Socialize indoors with anyone outside bubble – even just one friend – risky. Hanging out with lots of friends indoors can be dangerous.
“If you go to a party with five or more people, there will almost certainly be someone with Covid-19 at the party,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
One of the reasons the coronavirus spreads so easily is because people can be contagious without knowing they are infected – and can pass the virus on without being seen or feeling sick.
The CDC estimates more than 50% of all infections are transmitted from asymptomatic people.
“This means that at least half of new infections come from people who may not be aware that they are transmitting to other people,” the agency said.
What is the difference between asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread?
And just as doctors predicted, vacation trips and meetings have sparked a new wave of infections, hospitalizations and deaths across the country.
The impact of the holidays may still occur across the United States over the coming weeks.
“It can take two to three weeks for patients to be sick enough to need hospitalization after they catch the virus,” said Dr. Anish Mahajan, chief medical officer at Harbor Medical Center-UCLA.
Even though Christmas was less than three weeks ago, “we’re full”.
“We don’t have ICU capacity anymore,” Mahajan said. “All the hospitals in the region are placing ICU patients in unusual places in the hospital just to find a space for them.”
Several patients have been hospitalized rest room, parking garage and gift shop.
Then there is the newly identified variant
New for 2021: The United States has confirmed at least 76 cases a very contagious variant of the corona virus first detected in Great Britain.
The US cases were found in 12 states: California, Florida, Minnesota, New York, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Texas, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Wisconsin and Georgia, according to CDC data posted Wednesday.
But the real figure can be much higher because The United States lags behind dozens of other countries in the proportion of Covid-19 cases analyzed through genetic sequencing.
And The United States ranks 61 about how quickly virus samples are collected from patients, analyzed, and then sent to international databases to find new variants.
Earlier this month, a CDC official said the agency plans to do so double the number of samples sorted in mid-January – with a target of 6,500 per week.
Understanding the genetic makeup of the virus and how it changes is essential to ensure vaccines remain effective.
All viruses mutate over time, and new variants are common.
But scientists advising the British government have predicted that a variant could be up to 70% more effective at spreading from the other.
While it may be more contagious, there is no evidence that the variant first detected in the UK is more lethal or causes more severe disease, the CDC said.
But the strain first detected in Britain is not the only cause for concern.
Variant first detected in South Africa has been shown to possibly escape some of the antibodies produced by the Covid-19 vaccine.
The strain was first seen two months ago in South Africa and has been found in 12 countries. As of Thursday, it had not been detected in the United States.
Why can’t we all get vaccinated right away?
Vaccine rollout is ongoing slower than expected.
The Trump administration initially said it was purposeful to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of 2020.
It didn’t happen. Not even close.
As of Thursday morning, about 10.2 million doses of the vaccine had been administered, out of about 29.3 million doses distributed across the United States, according to the CDC.
And the two vaccines distributed in the United States today – from Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna – require two doses for each person.
The federal government recently said it would stop holding doses held in reserve – intended to help warrant a second dose – so that more people can get their first dose sooner.
When can you get the vaccine? It depends on your health, your job and where you live.
In the coming weeks and months, the US Food and Drug Administration may authorize emergency use for other vaccines – such as those from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca.
But either way, millions of Americans have to wait months before getting a vaccine.
What all of this means to you
If you want to live closer to normal (and faster), it’s time to double take security measures:
Wear a mask in public and whenever you are around someone you don’t live with. If there is a possibility of infection in your home, wear a mask at home too.
Don’t rely on a negative test result as a way to “safely” see friends or relatives. You can test negative but still be infected and contagious.
Maintain social distancing. Wash your hands frequently. And don’t think you’re invincible – even if you’re young and healthy.
“We saw severe illness among healthy young adults without a clear underlying cause, “said Hotez.
“Is it because … higher doses of the virus, whether they have genetic changes they don’t know – we don’t understand,” he said.
“So, we can’t predict with certainty who will handle this virus well, and who will not.”
CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen, Maggie Fox, Michael Nedelman, and Amanda Watts contributed to this report.