Now the country has added more than a million cases to its dismal total in just five days.
In 13 hours on Sunday from midnight to 1 p.m. ET, the country saw 53,574 new cases, along with 327 deaths, about 25 people per hour.
November saw alarming spikes in the daily number of coronavirus cases, reaching 100,000 for the first time, as well as spikes in hospitalizations and deaths.
In the first five days of December, more than a million cases were reported in the United States.
As the impacts of Thanksgiving travel and gatherings begin to unfold and hospitals fill to capacity, experts say it is likely to get worse.
“Every day thousands more people get this virus, and we know that means that in a few days, in a week, hundreds of people are going to come to the hospital and hundreds of people are going to die,” said Dr. Shirlee Xie , associate director of hospital medicine for Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis, told CNN, her voice cracking with emotion.
“I think sometimes when you hear statistics like that, you get numb to what those numbers mean.
“But for us, the people who are caring for these patients, each number is someone we have to look at and say, ‘I’m sorry, there’s nothing else I can do for you.
More than 100,000 COVID-19 patients have been hospitalized across the country in the past four days, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
The first five days of December brought the highest number of hospitalizations since the pandemic began.
Millions of Californians face stay-at-home orders
In the past week, hospitalizations in Los Angeles County have tripled and the number of available hospital beds in the area could decline to none in two to four weeks if cases continue to rise, the Los Angeles mayor said Friday. , Eric Garcetti.
In response to the growing threat, the Southern California region will be under a new stay-at-home order beginning at 11:59 p.m. Sunday.
The order will apply to Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
The San Joaquin Valley will also be under stay-at-home orders at that time, local officials announced Saturday, after the region’s intensive care unit capacity fell below 15 percent.
More than 4 million people live in the region.
The San Francisco Bay Area issued a stay-at-home order, restricting the activities of more than 5.8 million people.
It affects Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, and San Francisco counties, as well as the city of Berkeley.
While the Bay Area has not reached the threshold of less than 15 percent of its capacity, officials warn that they are seeing evidence of transmission over Thanksgiving weekend that could fuel an increase.
“I don’t think we can wait for the new state restrictions to go into effect at the end of this month,” Contra Costa Health Director Chris Farnitano said Friday.
“We must act quickly to save as many lives as we can. This is an emergency.”
“It really is time we shut down the activity and see if we can change this before the hospitals get overwhelmed,” said Dr. Robert Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, noting that California has had a “better than average performance” during the pandemic.
“I see other parts of the country that are still open, even though the case rates and hospitalization rates are much worse than here.
“So, I think we are acting correctly.”
Adults must be vaccinated for students to return to school.
It will likely take months before all adults in the US can get vaccinated against the virus, and the wait will be even longer for children, but they can still be protected by distributing the vaccine, said Dr. Wachter.
“I think it’s reasonable to expect children to go back to school in the fall, not so much because everyone has been vaccinated, although I hope they will, but everyone around them has been vaccinated and the virus rate in their communities has dropped. to a point where it’s perfectly safe for them to be in school, “Dr. Wachter said.
Earlier this week, vaccine advisers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted 13 to 1 to recommend that both healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities be First in line for any vaccine that gets the green light from the US Food and Drug Administration.
Moncef Slaoui, senior scientific advisor to the public-private vaccine program known as Operation Warp Speed, said he expects to see a “fairly significant” drop in coronavirus illness and death among the elderly population by the end of January.
Noting that between 40 and 50 percent of deaths in the United States come from elderly Americans residing in long-term care facilities, Slaoui told CNN: “We should have been able to immunize the entire population and workers of the health that they take care of through the end of December or the middle of January “.
By mid-March, he added, the United States should have vaccinated its highly susceptible population, which is about 100 million people, while the rest of the country “will not all have the vaccine in our arms before May or June.”
Making the vaccine has been “somewhat more complicated and more difficult than planned,” Slaoui said, adding that scientists are six to eight weeks behind in “an ideal scenario where we would have had 100 million doses. by the end of this year. “
The nature of rushing a vaccine means more problems can arise, he said.
“This is not an engineering problem. These are biological problems. They are extremely complex and we don’t control 100 percent of everything when it happens,” he said.
“There will be small glitches.”
The vaccine, which will come in two doses, a challenge to produce and distribute in the quantities needed, will likely reach healthy Americans, not the elderly and with no known underlying health conditions in late March and early April, said Dr. Anthony Fauci. , director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said.
Children are likely to be vaccinated relatively late in the game because COVID-19 vaccines have largely not been tested in children.
The National Vaccine Advisory Committee voted Friday not to recommend the emergency use of a COVID-19 vaccine in children, noting that children generally experience a milder version of the disease.
Dr. Wachter says that if adults get vaccinated, children could reap the benefits.
“If we can vaccinate everyone else, we can vaccinate all adults and make the virus go extinct because we get closer to herd immunity, children may be less important.”