With almost 25 million cases and just about 392,00 deaths according to www.worldometers.info on Wednesday, 13 January 2021, Covid-19 is nowhere near to being under control in the US. On Tuesday this week, Johns Hopkins University reported that the US saw 4,327 Covid-19 deaths. In the last week, the country has seen a more than 100% increase in daily deaths when compared with November 2020.
Experts are alarmed but not surprised, with many citing the holidays and holiday travel as the main reason for the increase. Warnings to the public on not travelling and keeping Covid-19 safety regulations started ramping up around November last year, ahead of the annual ‘Thanksgiving’ holiday. Sounding the alarm, health experts were especially asking people not to travel and not to hold large family gatherings. But most Americans did what they have done for months when it comes to the Coronavirus – they ignored it.
President-elect Joe Biden tried to lead the way in 2020 and as the holidays approached when he announced on November 17 that he and his family were planning to have a small, safe, ‘Thanksgiving’ where they would be less than 10 people and follow all the coronavirus safety guidelines. Biden said: “I just want to make sure we’re able to be together next Thanksgiving, next Christmas.”
Dr Anthony Fauci, Director of the US Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in an interview in October 2020, said people should “double down on the fundamental and daily public health measures we talk about every single day because they can make a difference”.
Fauci said while everyone has an “understandable” desire to get together with family at this time but: “…when you have people coming in from out of town who may have been on airplanes… if you have vulnerable people, the elderly or people with underlying conditions, better consider whether you wanna do that now or maybe just forestall it and just wait…”
Again on November 25th, on the eve of the holiday, Fauci called on Americans to follow Covid-19 guidelines in a last minute “final plea” attempt to try to ensure that people took precautions.
However, by November 25 2020, millions of people had already travelled to attend family gatherings. Also at that time, a US Department of Health and Human Services report stated that more than a thousand hospitals across the country were critically short of staff.
Despite the warnings and increasing numbers of positive cases and fatalities, Americans travelled and gathered and dined together in numbers. More than 90,000 Americans spent Thanksgiving in hospital with Covid-19.
This number kept going up as did Covid-19 deaths. All the worst expectations and most dire warnings coming true as health experts had predicted the Thanksgiving spike and that it would continue from there, being in the thick of winter and heading for the Christmas holidays.
As 2021 came closer the vaccine rollout was meant to stave off the ever climbing numbers, but despite vaccinations starting in mid-December 2020 only some 10 million vaccinations have been administered to date.
And health experts are concerned about the vaccine roll-out as the country has fallen woefully short of its intended vaccination targets but the vaccination plan is now changing as well.
Issues with logistics and administration and other systems were already taking strain, servers crashing, issues with booking systems and sometimes scenes of near chaos as demand exceeded supply.
Now that more than 50 million Americans aged 65 and older have been cleared to receive the virus, it is not clear if there are enough systems in place to support the numbers.
The US government believes there are adequate systems in place to handle the increase, with Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar saying “There was never a reason that states needed to complete vaccinating all health care providers before opening vaccinations to older Americans and other vulnerable populations.”
Azar also said they would increase vaccine supplies to states.
The vaccine is expected to be available to the public – aged under 65 – by late February, early March. DM
An Wentzel is Night Editor, specialist reporter for Daily Maverick, she went to the USA to visit family as the pandemic struck and is currently marooned in the land of the ‘free’.
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