The United States on Monday reached a grim milestone, reporting a total of more than 300,000 deaths linked to the novel coronavirus since the country's epidemic began. But Monday also offered new hope for the epidemic's end, as frontline health care workers received the first doses of America's newly authorized vaccine against the virus.
America's coronavirus epidemic surges to new heights
U.S. officials on Monday reported about 201,073 new cases of the novel coronavirus, according to data compiled by the New York Times. As of Tuesday morning, U.S. officials had reported a total of about 16.5 million cases of the virus since America's epidemic began—up from about 16.3 million cases reported as of Monday morning.
According to the Times, the United States' average daily number of newly reported coronavirus cases over the past week was 209,600—which is up by 31% when compared with the average from two weeks ago.
As of Tuesday morning, data from the Times showed that the rates of newly reported coronavirus cases were "staying high" in Puerto Rico; the U.S. Virgin Islands; Washington, D.C.; and 40 states that have had a daily average of at least 15 newly reported cases per 100,000 people over the past week. Those Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, the Times' data showed that, as of Tuesday morning, the daily average number of newly reported cases over the past seven days was "going down" in nine states that had been seeing comparatively higher rates of coronavirus transmission. Those states are Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
Hawaii has had comparatively low case rates, but it was seeing those rates "going up" as of Tuesday morning, according to the Times. In Guam, meanwhile, rates of newly reported coronavirus cases were "staying low" as of Monday morning, the Times' data showed.
U.S. hospitalizations for Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, grew to a new high for the 17th consecutive day on Monday, according to data from The Atlantic's COVID Tracking Project. The data showed that 110,549 Americans with Covid-19 were hospitalized for treatment on Monday, including 21,456 who were receiving care in an ICU and 7,706 who were on a ventilator.
As the numbers of newly reported coronaviruses cases and Covid-19 hospitalizations continue to surge, the daily reported number of Americans dying from the coronavirus has spiked, as well. On Monday, the total number of U.S. deaths linked to the coronavirus surpassed 300,000.
U.S. officials on Monday reported about 1,678 new deaths linked to the virus. As of Tuesday morning, U.S. officials had reported a total of about 301,006 U.S. deaths linked to the virus since the country's epidemic began, up from about 299,328 deaths reported as of Monday morning.
Experts say the country's reported number of coronavirus deaths likely will continue to grow, as the United States is consistently reporting an average of nearly 200,000 new cases of the virus each day, the Times reports.
In a tweet, Trevor Bedford, a genomic epidemiologist at the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center, wrote that the percentage of Americans who die approximately 22 days after being diagnosed with Covid-19 has remained at about 1.7% since May. That means about three weeks' worth of future coronavirus deaths are "essentially 'baked into' currently reported cases," he explained.
As such, Bedford estimated that the United States will see an average of more than 3,000 coronavirus deaths daily for the next 22 days, since the daily number of newly reported cases has reached an average of 200,000.
However, Nicholas Reich, a biostatistician at the University of Massachusetts, said, "Actions taken collectively can really change the course of what is happening."
For instance, experts say Pfizer's and BioNTech's recently authorized coronavirus vaccine may help to mitigate the coronavirus's spread, which ultimately could help to curb the number of Americans who die because of the virus, the Times reports.
'I feel hopeful today': US health care workers receive first doses of newly authorized vaccine
And on Monday, health care workers throughout the United States became the first Americans to receive the first doses Pfizer's and BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine outside of clinical trials.
Sandra Lindsay, an ICU unit director at Northwell Health's Long Island Jewish Medical Center, is believed to be the first person in the country to receive the vaccine outside of clinical trials. Lindsay was vaccinated during a livestream with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), who called Lindsay a "hero."
After receiving the vaccination, Lindsay—who has been treating Covid-19 patients since the beginning of the country's epidemic—said, "I feel hopeful today, relieved." She continued, "I feel like healing is coming. I hope this marks the beginning of the end of a very painful time in our history."
Lindsay said she believes it was important for her as a Black woman to receive the vaccine to send a message to Americans who don't trust the U.S. health care system because of the country's history of medical racism. "Unfortunately, due to history, my population—minorities, people [who] look like me—are hesitant to take vaccines," she said, adding that she hopes to "instill public confidence that the vaccine is safe."
Nearly an hour after her vaccination, Lindsay said she felt no pain or discomfort. "The vaccine is new to my body. I suspect that as my immune system starts to unpack and decode what just happened, I will feel something," said Lindsay, who planned to be at work on Tuesday.
"It's safe to take" the vaccine, Lindsay said. "People have heard about the side effects—fever, arm pain—but I don't suspect that it will be any different from the annual flu vaccine. Even if there is a little soreness, or a lot of soreness, it's still better than the alternative."
Meanwhile, in New Orleans, Leonardo Seoane, Ochsner Medical Center's chief academic officer, received his first dose of the inoculation and called the opportunity "a privilege." Seoane, who is Cuban American, called on "all of my Hispanic brothers and sisters to do it. It's OK."
In North Dakota, Rishi Seth, an internal medicine physician at Sanford Health who received the vaccination, called Monday an "emotional" day. Seth said the vaccine gives hope to health care providers who are "still fighting a battle," but are now "starting to see the horizon."
In Kansas, after receiving her vaccination, Maggie Hagan, director of infection prevention at Ascension Via Christi hospitals, said, "I almost could cry talking to you now. I feel like I didn't just get a vaccine, I got a shot of hope. It's hope that this is the beginning of the end of this terrible pandemic that we've all been experiencing—but us on the front line have really seen the suffering and the tragedy associated with it" (Harmon, New York Times, 12/14; Stone, Kaiser Health News, 12/15; Allen/Borter, Reuters, 12/14; Guarino/Wan, Washington Post, 12/14; Healy et al., New York Times, 12/15; Neergaard, Associated Press, 12/15; New York Times, 12/15; "The COVID Tracking Project," The Atlantic, accessed 12/15).