More than 38,000 Americans have died of Covid-19 in the first two weeks of the new year.
Another 92,000 are projected to die from the virus over roughly the next three weeks, according to an ensemble forecast published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The numbers are scary and reflect what public health experts have repeatedly warned: While the end is in sight — with the help of ongoing Covid-19 vaccinations — the nation is still facing challenging times ahead.
Currently, more than 130,300 people are hospitalized with the virus, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.
In Pennsylvania, officials said the number of hospitalizations are nearing double the peak experienced during spring. Louisiana’s governor said earlier this week the state was seeing a “huge spike” in infections and hospitalizations. And in Arizona, officials reported Tuesday record-high Covid-19 hospitalization and ICU numbers.
Hundreds of thousands of infections are added to the country’s tally every single day, with the US adding more than three million new reported infections since the start of the month.
In Los Angeles County, about one in three residents has been infected with the virus since the pandemic’s start, according to data published by county officials. Outbreaks have increased across workplaces as well as schools and daycare settings, they said.
Echoing other leaders’ warnings, the LA officials added they have “not yet fully seen the effect of transmission in the period from around Christmas to New Years.”
And with all eyes now turned to the nation’s capital ahead of Inauguration Day, cases in Washington DC have never been higher. Right now, it’s averaging more than 320 new cases every day — about a 38% jump from the previous week. DC has reported a total of more than 32,600 Covid-19 cases since the pandemic’s start, about 10% of which have been added in 2021.
States are expanding groups eligible for vaccination
So far, more than 29.3 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been distributed nationwide and more than 10.2 million Americans have received their first dose, according to data from the CDC.
And some experts have encouraged states to open vaccine eligibility to more groups, to help speed up vaccine administrations.
In New Jersey, residents 65 and older and residents aged 16 to 64 with certain chronic health conditions are now eligible to sign up to get vaccinated, officials announced Wednesday. California also expanded its eligibility guidelines to include residents 65 and older. A news release from the state’s health department added that healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities remain California’s top priority for vaccines.
“There is no higher priority than efficiently and equitably distributing these vaccines as quickly as possible to those who face the gravest consequences,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “Individuals 65 and older are now the next group eligible to start receiving vaccines. To those not yet eligible for vaccines, your turn is coming.”
The announcements follow similar ones made by state leaders including Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, who earlier this week said residents 65 and older or those with pre-existing medical conditions can make appointments for Covid-19 vaccinations.
“My main priority is not to try and fight this pandemic with stricter and stricter orders,” Reeves said. “It’s to get better and better at distributing the vaccine, and that’s what our focus is now.”
Mass vaccination centers being opened
And while expanding the list of who can get vaccinated, states are coming up with more options for where residents can get their shots.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is working on a plan to use the Yankee Stadium as a vaccination site, the mayor announced Wednesday.
“That plan is in motion,’ he said, adding the city will release more details when the plan has been worked through.
De Blasio’s announcement came about a day after he and New York Mets owner Steve Cohen said a 24-hour vaccine mega site will be set up at Citi Field in Queens later this month.
In Hawaii, officials said Wednesday they are opening two new Covid-19 mass vaccination sites, which they hope can in a few weeks be able to vaccinate between 3,000 and 4,000 people daily.
And in California, the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim is now Orange County’s first “super” Covid-19 vaccination site. Hundreds of cars had lined up for its opening on Wednesday, CNN affiliate KCAL/KCBS reported.
The site will be able to vaccinate upwards of 7,000 people each day, Andrew Do, acting chairman of the county’s Board of Supervisors said in a news conference Wednesday.
Here is how pharmacies will help
Pharmacies will also play a key role in helping administer vaccines.
On Wednesday, the head of one of the nation’s largest pharmacy chains expressed optimism that it could soon be giving as many as a million vaccine doses daily.
“We’re very hopeful that the federal program will open up soon and open a more direct distribution into pharmacies across the country, which will open up access,” CVS Health Executive Vice President Karen Lynch said Wednesday during the annual J.P. Morgan Health Care Conference.
CVS can administer 25 million vaccinations a month, Lynch said, through its retail locations across the country.
“We have a large reach,” Lynch added, saying the company’s 10,000 stores can reach about 85% of the American population.
Walgreens also said earlier this week it expects to administer about 30 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine across the country by the end of this summer, once vaccines are available to the wider population.
The drugstore chain said it is hiring and training staff and increasing digital and phone booking capabilities in preparation for the wider vaccine rollout.
“We’re making sure that everyone is ready to get after this as soon as the vaccines become available en masse, which we believe will be probably March, April,” Walgreens COO Alexander Gourlay said at the conference.