President Biden on Tuesday announced the United States would have enough Covid-19 vaccine doses to vaccinate all Americans by late May, sooner than previously expected.
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His announcement came even as Texas and other states lifted coronavirus-related restrictions—raising alarm from some experts, who say the United States could be approaching a fourth surge in the epidemic.
In February, Biden projected the United States would have enough vaccine doses to inoculate most—or roughly 300 million—U.S. adults against Covid-19 by the end of July. However, Biden on Tuesday announced an accelerated timeline.
"About three weeks ago we were able to say that we would have enough vaccine supply for adults by the end of July," Biden said during a press conference. "I'm pleased to announce today … this country will have enough vaccine supply … for every adult in America by the end of May."
Biden said an agreement brokered by the White House to allow Merck & Co. to manufacture Johnson & Johnson's single-dose Covid-19 vaccine, coupled with other efforts to scale up vaccine production, will substantially boost supply.
"As a consequence of the stepped-up process that I ordered, and just outlined, this country will have enough vaccine supply as a target for every adult in America by the end of May," Biden said. "That's progress. Important progress."
Biden also said he would use his federal authority to offer Covid-19 vaccines to K-12 teachers and child care workers—with the goal of administering at least one shot to all educators by the end of March. Biden said starting next week, educators will be allowed to schedule vaccine appointments at CVS, Walgreens, and other retail pharmacies.
Vaccinations have become particularly crucial to the effort to contain the coronavirus as states roll back public health measures intended to curb the virus's transmission.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott (R), for example, announced he would end a statewide mask mandate, effective March 10, and would lift capacity limits on all business in the state.
"I just announced Texas is OPEN 100%," Abbott in a tweet Tuesday afternoon wrote. "EVERYTHING."
Although Abbott said "Covid has not, like, suddenly disappeared," he argued that "state mandates are no longer needed" because 5.7 million vaccine shots have been administered in Texas, advanced treatments are now available for Covid-19 patients, and Texas is able to test a large number of its residents for the coronavirus each day.
Other local and state officials have similarly loosened restrictions. The mayor of San Francisco and the governors of Michigan, Mississippi, and Louisiana, for instance, eased capacity limits on bars, restaurants and other businesses Tuesday.
But some public health officials have expressed alarm at the moves, saying America is currently at a crossroads in its coronavirus epidemic, with the potential to see continued progress or for a "fourth surge" to emerge.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Monday said she's "really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from Covid-19." Walensky said the latest data shows that U.S. coronavirus cases and deaths have stopped declining and have plateaued at a high level.
Overall, data compiled by the New York Times shows that U.S. officials on Tuesday reported about 57,789 new cases of the novel coronavirus. As of Wednesday morning, officials had reported about 28.7 million cases since the United States' epidemic began.
According to the Times, the United States' average daily number of newly reported coronavirus cases over the past week was 65,468—down by 19% when compared with the average from two weeks ago.
However, the Times' data showed that, as of Wednesday morning, the rates of newly reported coronavirus cases were "staying high" in Washington, D.C., and 13 states that have reported a daily average of at least 15 newly reported cases per 100,000 people over the past week. Those states are Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Texas.
In addition, the rate of newly reported coronavirus cases was "going up" as of Wednesday morning in Michigan, which has had comparatively lower case rates, the Times reports.
According to the data, rates of newly reported coronavirus cases were "staying low" or declining from previously higher rates in the remaining U.S. states and territories.
Meanwhile, data from The Atlantic's COVID Tracking Project shows there were 46,388 Americans with Covid-19 hospitalized for treatment on Tuesday, including 9,465 who were receiving care in an ICU and 3,169 who were on a ventilator.
Further, data from the Times shows that U.S. officials reported about 1,306 new deaths linked to the coronavirus on Tuesday. As of Wednesday morning, officials had reported about 515,710 U.S. deaths linked to the virus since the country's epidemic began.
(Perano, Axios, 3/2; LaFraniere et al., New York Times, 3/2; Florko, STAT News, 3/2; Meckler, Washington Post, 3/2; Knutson, Axios, 3/1; Sullivan, New York Times, 3/2; Weber/Webber, Associated Press, 3/3; New York Times, 3/3; "COVID Tracking Project," The Atlantic, accessed 3/3).
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