The United States has hit a record number of hospitalizations with more than 110,000 people being treated for COVID-19 on the same day that the vaccine was administered to the first Americans and the death toll surpassed the grim 300,000 mark.
There were 1,311 new deaths, more than 193,000 new cases and a record high of 110,549 patients hospitalized with the virus as of yesterday.
The number of hospitalizations has surpassed the 100,000 mark every day for the last two weeks with the seven-day rolling average of patients now at 107,856.
The death toll surpassed the grim 300,000 milestone just hours after the first COVID-19 vaccine was administered in the country. The seven-day rolling average for deaths is currently just over 2,400 per day.
More than 17,000 Americans died of COVID-19 last week alone, marking the deadliest week since the pandemic began and a 12 per cent increase in deaths compared to the previous seven days, according to a Reuters tally of state and county reports.
The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has projected that COVID-19 deaths could exceed 500,000 by April 1 if current behaviours remain in place.
The Midwestern states of North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa currently have the highest number of deaths per 100,000 people based on a seven-day average.
Despite the Midwestern states currently experiencing the most deaths per capita, the number of infections in the hard-hit region has been declining.
South Dakota’s infections declined 17 per cent last week compared to the previous seven days and Iowa’s cases were down 25 per cent. North Dakota still saw an increase of 13 per cent but that has slowed considerably from previous weeks.
Deaths are a lagging indicator and can potentially surge weeks after infections.
COVID-19 cases are still increasing nationally with infections last week totalling a record of 1.6 million, which is up 15 per cent compared to the previous week.
Rhode Island, Tennessee and Ohio are currently seeing the most infections per 100,000, according to CDC data.
As infections decline in the Midwest, states in the West have seen the largest surge. Based on yesterday’s figures, the West accounts for 738 cases per million people (or 31 per cent of total infections), according to the Covid Tracking Project. The Midwest had 722 cases per million yesterday, while the Northeast had 628 and the South had 559 per capita.
The devastating toll is only expected to grow in coming weeks, fueled by holiday travel and family gatherings.
Hundreds of more hospitals geared up to vaccinate their workers today as federal regulators issued a positive review of a second COVID-19 vaccine needed to boost the nation’s largest vaccination campaign.
The FDA said its preliminary analysis confirmed the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine developed by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health, bringing it to the cusp of authorization. A panel of outside experts will offer their recommendation on Thursday, with a final FDA decision expected soon thereafter.