The US reached the 17-million mark of confirmed COVID-19 cases on Thursday, a milestone that nobody ever wanted to see. In addition, according to the COVID Tracking Project (CTP), the US recorded 114,237 hospitalizations as a result of the deadly virus. This sets another record for hospitalizations. It is also the 16th consecutive day that the country has been above 100,000 current hospitalizations. The good news is that amidst the alarming numbers, there is more hope on the vaccine front.
FDA Votes to Authorize Use of Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine: The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) voted on Thursday to grant an emergency use authorization (EUA) of the new Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. The next step will be a meeting with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, scheduled for Saturday. The topic of the meeting will revolve around who should get the shot and how it should be distributed. If all goes according to plan, the distribution of the vaccine could begin as early as Monday.
According to the US Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary, Adm. Brett Giroir, it is expected that there will be 7.9 million doses shipped next week to various distribution spots throughout the nation. There will be two million doses of the Pfizer vaccine that was already approved last week and another 5.9 million doses of the Moderna version.
New Study Points to Deadliness of COVID-19 Compared to Flu: Results of a new study published on Thursday confirmed that the COVID-19 virus is three times more deadly than the seasonal flu when measured across a variety of metrics. The results were published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal. The study examined over 130,000 hospitalized COVID-19 or flu patients in France. This large-scale study reaffirms what scientists and medical experts have already ascertained about the severity of COVID-19 compared to the flu.
Rep. Cedric Richmond Tests Positive: Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond announced on Thursday that he has tested positive for COVID-19. In addition to being an active member of Congress, Richmond is also the incoming White House senior adviser as well as the director of the Office of Public Engagement.
Richmond said that he is only experiencing mild symptoms. While he was with President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday at a rally in Georgia, he said that they were both following all standard safety protocols. Not only were they outside, but they were also both wearing masks and did not get too close to each other.
Amidst this news, it was also revealed that Congress is going to receive a limited amount of the COVID-19 vaccine. The news came in a letter from Capitol attending physician Brian Monahan to House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
McConnell also released a letter urging all Americans to believe in the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, confirming that he will get the shot within the next few days.
Health Secretary’s Wife Also Tests Positive: It was also announced on Thursday night that the wife of the US Secretary of Health and Human Services tested positive. Alex Azar confirmed that his wife, Jennifer, has the virus and is experiencing mild symptoms.
Azar said that he has tested negative and that his wife is isolating at home. While Azar did not hide the fact that he attended a holiday party recently at the White House, he said that he used a mask and tried to social distance.
Florida Reports Highest Case Confirmations Since Summer Peak: According to the Florida Department of Health, there were 13,148 new COVID-19 cases confirmed on Thursday. This figure marks the highest number of new cases since July 16. With these new cases, Florida has now had 1,168,483 total COVID-19 cases to date.
With Thursday’s 104 new COVID-19 fatalities, the total death toll is well over 20,000 in the Sunshine State.
California Breaks Records for Daily Deaths: California continues to see rapid confirmed case growth rates. The Golden State recorded 379 new deaths on Thursday, shattering the previous record of 293 fatalities in one day set the day before.
The state also saw 52,281 new confirmed infections. State officials are blaming a Thanksgiving holiday spike for the alarming increase in numbers. What is most concerning to health officials is the hospitalization numbers. ICU’s across the state are feeling the strain of the increase in hospitalizations as medical facilities begin to reach the breaking point.
Despite over 98% of California’s nearly 40 million residents being put under a stay-at-home order, the virus is still spiraling out of control.
Los Angeles Feeling the Heat: The city of Los Angeles and Southern California, in general, are particularly feeling the strain. Some health officials estimate that one out of every 50 residents in Los Angeles County may have the virus. Government leaders are pleading with residents to stay home and to wear masks as the ICU units in the region reach full capacity.
By Thursday, approximately 65% of the hospitals in Los Angeles Couty were put on diversion status. This means that they are not allowed to accept new patients, forcing them to direct incoming patients in need to other medical facilities equipped to handle the load.
New York City Hospitals Forced to Suspend Elective Procedures: Hospitals within the New York City Health + Hospitals network have decided to suspend elective procedures across its 11 facilities. While emergency surgeries will continue, all elective procedures have been halted as a result of the continuing strain on its ICU units.
In a bit of good news, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that over 5,200 of the city’s health care workers have received the vaccine.