Doctor checks on covid patient in hospital
In this Nov. 19, 2020, file photo, Dr. Rafik Abdou checks on a COVID-19 patient at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles. The US set another record for COVID deaths on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

“The best thing for Americans to do in the upcoming holiday season is to stay at home and not travel. Cases are rising. Hospitalizations are increasing, deaths are increasing. We need to try to bend the curve, stop this exponential increase.”

More than 2,800 Americans were reported to have died from COVID-19 on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University data, setting a grim, single-day record as the coronavirus pandemic enters its most dangerous phase yet. 

Another 200,000 new cases of the virus were also reported, and 100,226 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized with the disease in US hospitals. That’s the highest reported at any time during the pandemic, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

The jarring numbers are likely to get even worse in the coming weeks, with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield warning that the next three months are “going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation.” 

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Over the past week, more than out of every 10 people tested for the virus in the US has tested positive. Several health officials noted the US could soon reach 3,000 deaths a day, a bleak milestone that recalls one of America’s darkest days. 

“By this time next week, we are going to be talking about 3,000 deaths a day—that’s 9/11 every single day,” Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at George Washington University, told CNN.

As the numbers continue to climb and hospitals approach capacity in many areas, state, county, and city leaders across the country are beginning to impose tighter rules and restrictions in order to combat the spread of the virus. 

Health experts and public officials are once again urging Americans not to travel or gather for the holidays, warning that doing so could make things even worse.

“The best thing for Americans to do in the upcoming holiday season is to stay at home and not travel,” Henry Walke, the CDC’s COVID-19 incident manager, told reporters. “Cases are rising. Hospitalizations are increasing, deaths are increasing. We need to try to bend the curve, stop this exponential increase.”

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The CDC’s National Ensemble Forecast projects that as many as 19,500 people could die during the week of Christmas alone. 

There has been positive news in recent weeks on the vaccine front and the FDA could soon grant emergency use authorizations for vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna after each company released initial data from their trials showing that each of their vaccines were over 90% effective in protecting people against coronavirus infection. If the vaccines are authorized, roughly 20 million medical workers and long-term facility residents could begin to receive shots as early as this month. 

“All the investments we have made in scaling up and starting to stockpile manufacturing of the vaccines allow us to stay confident that we will be able to distribute 20 million vaccines, enough to vaccinate 20 million people in the US in December,” Moncef Slaoui, the top scientist advising the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine effort, said in a Wednesday news briefing.

But for most Americans, a vaccine is still a few months away, according to Slaoui. He believes that by the end of February, 100 million Americans could be vaccinated against COVID-19. It will take until at least June, however, for there to be enough vaccines for all Americans, Slaoui said.

If Slaoui’s predictions are correct, the US is closer to the end of the pandemic than the beginning. But at the current trajectory, there will be a horrifying amount of fatalities between now and then. The death toll, which currently sits at 273,446, could reach 450,000 by February, according to Redfield.

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