December is the deadliest month for the coronavirus since the pandemic began, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. has recorded more than 63,000 deaths so far this month. April was previously the deadliest month of the pandemic, with more than 55,000 deaths. According to the COVID Tracking Project, deaths surpassed that number just three weeks into December as temperatures dropped, people gathered for the holidays and cases surged.
According to the most recent data from Johns Hopkins, the U.S. has seen more than 19 million coronavirus cases and more than 330,000 deaths due to COVID-19.
“I’m going to tell you the truth. And here’s the simple truth: Our darkest days in the battle against COVID are ahead of us, not behind us,” Biden said during a press conference Tuesday.
“As frustrating as it is to hear, it’s going to take patience, persistence and determination to beat this virus. There will be no time to waste in taking the steps we need to turn this crisis around,” he added.
“As we have gone from the late fall to the early winter, the numbers really are quite troubling,” Fauci said.
“With the hospitalizations over 120,000, we really are a critical stage,” he added.
Two vaccines — made by Pfizer and Moderna — have been approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with a little more than 1 million people vaccinated so far. More than 9 million doses of the vaccines have reportedly been sent out.
The federal government had aimed to vaccinate around 20 million by the end of the year, but that goal now appears to be out of reach.
In late November, when news of coronavirus vaccine approval was on the horizon, former NATO commander James Stavridis wrote in an op-ed for Fortune magazine that changes had to be made to the government’s plan for vaccine distribution.
Stavridis took issue with the fact that only one company, McKesson, had been tasked with the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines. He said the government needed more companies to protect against possibility of failure in its distribution plan.
But even with promising developments such as the vaccine, new challenges continue to arise. A new, more contagious strain of the coronavirus has been detected in the U.K. and South Africa, causing many nations to limit or ban travel to and from those countries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a requirement for U.K. air travelers to provide a negative coronavirus test when traveling to the U.S.
On Sunday, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the new strain is likely already in the U.S. Gottlieb also said vaccine distribution would likely be stymied by hard-to-reach communities. He suspected that more people had been vaccinated than had been reported due to a lag in data collection.
- Sunday shows – Trump’s COVID-19 relief bill opposition dominates
- US coronavirus cases surpass 19 million
“But the idea that we’re going to get to 20 million vaccines, vaccinations, by the end of the year, that’s probably unrealistic at this point,” said Gottlieb.
However, Gottlieb predicted that once the vaccine was made available through pharmacy chains such as Walgreens and CVS, there would be significant made in the distribution of the vaccine.
The order in which people receive the vaccine has been left to state governments to decide. Many state governments are still grappling with how they will determine the order. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) recently announced that teachers and school staff members would be next in line to receive the vaccine.