It took almost six weeks for the pandemic to claim the lives of 3,000 Americans.
In the last week that number of COVID deaths – about the number of fatalities in the 9/11 terror attacks – has been taking place in U.S. homes, hospitals and hospices every two days.
News of impending vaccines has instilled hope the pandemic will pass into history within months. But the road to that brighter future continues to darken – in the last seven days, the nation recorded a weekly record with 1.2 million new infections. On Monday, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients surpassed 85,000 for the first time.
Dr. Anthony Fauci told Yahoo News the onset of colder weather and the holiday seasons of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Eve could conspire to drive the number of infections, hospitalizations and deaths even higher.
Keep masks handy: Despite vaccine news, normalcy is months away
The encouraging recent news on vaccines, with three candidates showing a high level of efficacy, does not mean life will return to normal any time soon, experts warn.
The requirement to use face masks and maintain social distance will remain in place for several more months until vaccines have been distributed widely and a certain threshold of herd immunity has been reached. Dr. Moncef Slaoui, head of the U.S. vaccine development effort known as Operation Warp Speed, told CNN about 70% of the population would need to be vaccinated to achieve that goal – a milestone he said is likely to happen by May.
Until then, medical professionals preach continuing to stick to the CDC guidelines that aim to curb spread of the coronavirus.
“If you’re fighting a battle and the cavalry is on the way, you don’t stop shooting; you keep going until the cavalry gets here, and then you might even want to continue fighting,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert.