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Every US coronavirus death is preventable, health expert says

The sad part about the thousands of Americans that will die in the coming weeks of the...

Posted: Dec 24, 2020 6:59 AM
Updated: Dec 24, 2020 8:15 PM

The sad part about the thousands of Americans that will die in the coming weeks of the coronavirus pandemic is that they don't have to have to happen, according to one health expert.

'Every death that we're talking about this afternoon is preventable,' Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN on Thursday. 'None of this has to happen.

'We have the ability to stop these deaths, getting vaccines out, keeping masks on, social distancing. We just have to get everyone to hang in there a few more weeks.'

As of Thursday afternoon, more than 328,000 people in the United States have died from Covid-19, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The seven-day average of deaths is rising in 22 states when compared with the prior seven-day average.

Experts fear holiday gatherings will bring another surge of cases, followed by another surge of hospitalizations, followed by another surge of deaths.

'We can still save lives,' Hotez said. 'No one has to lose their lives over the next few weeks and months. It's a tough message to get across, though.'

Herd immunity won't come for months, expert says

The administration of Covid-19 vaccines is 'amazing news,' but people need to be aware that it will be a while before everyone is protected, said CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen.

'I do think there is a false sense of security that people are thinking, 'Well, vaccines are here,'' she said. 'And while that's amazing news, we also know that it will take some time.'

'It will take maybe a half year or more for us to get to herd immunity in this country,' she said. 'In that meantime we still have to really double down and do the masks, physical distancing, avoiding indoor gatherings.'

Herd immunity occurs when a large enough portion of a community becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Anthony Fauci estimated that 70-85% of the population needs to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus to achieve herd immunity.

'This is purely an estimate,' Fauci said. 'I don't want anyone to go bonkers over this. These are all estimates.'

Several factors go into estimating what percentage of the population needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, including the rate of spread of the virus and the effectiveness of the vaccine.

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are about 95% effective against coronavirus.

Deaths are projected to reach 567,000 by April

More than 1 million people have received their first shot of a Covid-19 vaccine, but an influential coronavirus model projects the US death toll will climb well over a half million, topping 567,000 by April 1.

The latest projection from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation notes that number could explode further to 731,000 by April 1 if states ease mandates aimed at containing the novel coronavirus.

But more than 33,000 lives could be saved by the projected vaccine rollout, the IHME said, and 45,000 could be saved if the rollout were more rapid.

Across the country, the use of masks has increased to 74%, the IHME said. If it were to expand to 95%, there could be 49,000 fewer deaths by April 1.

The latest IHME model comes as the US has put its hopes in the rollout of its recently authorized Covid-19 vaccines. Operation Warp Speed has distributed about 9.5 million doses and administered at least 1 million doses as of early Wednesday, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

'With cases of Covid-19 continuing to surge nationwide, this achievement comes at a critical time and will help to protect those on the front lines -- our health care providers treating COVID-19 patients -- as well as our most vulnerable: elder individuals living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities,' CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said.

The vaccinations can't come too soon for California, which became the first state to hit 2 million coronavirus cases late Wednesday -- more than all but a handful of countries -- less than six weeks after the state hit 1 million cases on November 12. Given the state's population of 39.5 million, about 1 out of every 20 people in California has tested positive for the virus.

The state's 7-day positivity rate now stands at 12.6%, a slight decrease from previous weeks. However, 55 of California's 58 counties remain in the most restrictive purple tier of the state's Covid-19 reopening system, which have resulted in the closure of many nonessential indoor business operations.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has attributed the recent surge in cases to people relaxing their physical distancing efforts and gathering with people outside of their households, especially during the holidays.

A total of 23,558 Californians have died of complications from the disease since the start of the pandemic.

'We have an end in sight'

In all, the US reported 228,131 new cases of the coronavirus and 3,359 new deaths on Wednesday, the third-most deaths in a single day. That is a devastating 'normal' for the US, which has averaged about 215,000 new cases and over 2,700 new deaths every day over the past week.

Several states, including Arkansas and Georgia, reported a record number of cases Thursday. Arizona and Mississippi each had an all-time high number of Covid-19 patients in hospitals.

Los Angeles County, home to 10 million people, announced 148 deaths, a record for one day.

Dr. Andrew Pastewski, the intensive care unit medical director at Jackson South Medical Center in Miami, attributed the surge in cases at his hospital to Thanksgiving.

'And with the upcoming holidays, we are very scared about what we're about to see,' he told CNN's Erica Hill.

But with the vaccine, 'we have an end in sight,' Pastewski said.

The government has said it intends to distribute 20 million first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines in the coming weeks, slightly later than it had originally planned.

'It's been a big week of delivery of vaccines,' Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, told reporters Wednesday. 'Over 7,800 deliveries by the end of tomorrow, as we are delivering the 7.9 million doses of vaccine that were allocated for this week around the country -- really a tremendous feat.'

Perna said about 15.5 million doses of vaccine have been allocated and another 4.5 to 5 million will be allotted next week.

'We'll finish those deliveries in the first week of January,' he said.

In addition, health care workers have found that the Pfizer vaccine, a frozen solution that is diluted with saline before it is given to people, can yield more than the initially thought five doses.

As such, Perna said that the ancillary kits shipped along with the vaccine are being adjusted with extra supplies to accommodate a possible sixth dose.

'We have adjusted our contract and our construction of the kits to ... provide even more capability as we go forward,' Perna said Wednesday.

He noted that the kits already had a bit of 'extra capability' built in, and that right now most of the administration of the vaccine is occurring in hospitals 'where they have access to syringes and needles accordingly.'

'So, feel very comfortable with the availability of syringes and needles and our ability to put these kits together and continue the simultaneous distribution of the kits with the vaccine,' he said.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 357526

Reported Deaths: 4284
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah55810707
Washington38782324
Marion36837455
Clackamas29779309
Lane27744302
Jackson23059310
Deschutes20336125
Umatilla14492150
Linn12911131
Douglas12118243
Josephine9384196
Yamhill8715113
Klamath8020119
Polk737381
Malheur563677
Benton549431
Coos503794
Columbia382644
Jefferson376052
Lincoln319939
Union319549
Crook291846
Wasco288841
Clatsop244328
Baker203529
Tillamook196932
Hood River192837
Morrow185023
Curry180625
Harney113927
Grant100013
Lake93912
Wallowa68612
Gilliam1544
Sherman1523
Wheeler1121
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 4848946

Reported Deaths: 71328
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles148303126527
Riverside3716705041
San Diego3666614183
San Bernardino3586775692
Orange3242885562
Sacramento1596362309
Kern1463481648
Fresno1463182094
Santa Clara1455431897
Alameda1206921400
San Joaquin1027761721
Ventura1010381167
Contra Costa1000181008
Stanislaus862991335
Tulare80375978
San Francisco54440649
San Mateo54168623
Monterey50911586
Solano46063341
Santa Barbara45223523
Merced42422581
Sonoma40997404
Placer39435429
Imperial36071766
Kings32938325
San Luis Obispo29973333
Madera23955285
Shasta23924352
Butte23818273
Santa Cruz21034221
Yolo20397248
Marin17706244
El Dorado17207149
Sutter13937175
Napa12898100
Yuba1011582
Tehama9534110
Humboldt9269109
Nevada916790
Mendocino766787
Lassen754347
San Benito744972
Tuolumne691790
Lake6631105
Amador547364
Siskiyou451246
Glenn438433
Calaveras391481
Del Norte358742
Colusa307618
Inyo214241
Mono16723
Plumas16607
Mariposa133916
Trinity88011
Modoc6895
Sierra1880
Unassigned1460
Alpine1050
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