US hospital cases drop as states grapple with COVID vaccine distribution

COVID-19 hospital team at bedside
COVID-19 hospital team at bedside

US Navy, Ryan M. Breeden / Flickr cc

The number of Americans currently hospitalized with COVID-19—119,927—is the lowest it's been since Dec 27, but experts warn a new plateau in virus activity could be lost if variant strains of the virus lead to new surges across the country.

According to CNBC, hospitalization in the United States reached an all-time peak of 132,000 patients on Jan 12.

A New York Times analysis says new cases of any type have dropped by 21% in the past 2 weeks, and 37 states are seeing sustained reductions in cases.

Experts with University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, who have produced several key models throughout the pandemic, said they believe most states are seeing their peak activity now, and cases will decline steadily through the spring due to both seasonality and vaccination.

But the researchers said they have not factored in variants, including B117, into models. Early data, however, show that current vaccines are effective against the variants.

Yesterday during his first briefing under the Biden administration, Anthony Fauci, MD, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he was concerned about the variants. Though he believes vaccination will offer protection, at least partially, against new strains, he also warned that more contagious strains—as B117 has proved to be in the United Kingdom—ultimately lead to more deaths and severe illnesses.

Despite the tenuous signs of progress, virus activity remains high in the United States: Yesterday there were 188,952 new COVID-19 cases and 3,955 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker. In total, the United States has 24,762,793 COVID-19 cases, including 412,780 deaths.

Most US adults confused about vaccine

Experts agree that controlling the virus before the variants become a major factor in US transmission depends on a swift and massive vaccination campaign, but 6 of 10 US adults said they do not know how or when they will get the COVID-19 vaccine, according to new polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

"Most Americans don't know when or where they can get a vaccine, including older Americans, who are already eligible to get a vaccine in a growing number of states," KFF President and CEO Drew Altman said. "Understandably, large numbers of people are frustrated, angry, and confused."

Among essential workers, 55% said they have enough information about where to get the vaccine, but 55% also said they do now know when they will be able to get vaccinated.

In related news, Walmart announced today it would begin offering the vaccine to select groups of people at select stores beginning next week. The company is already offering vaccines to healthcare workers in New Mexico and Arkansas and will add Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, South Carolina, and Texas in the coming days, along with Chicago and Puerto Rico.

According to Reuters, Walmart said today it expects to be able to deliver 10 million to 13 million doses per month at full capacity, using its network of more than 5,000 pharmacies in the US states and Puerto Rico.

Both Pfizer and Moderna, the two vaccine approved for emergency use in the United States, require two doses administered 21 and 28 days apart. New guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says people can who can't get their second vaccine dose in the recommended time frame can get it up to 6 weeks later.

Vaccine distribution, anaphylactic reactions

  • Florida is limiting vaccines to full- or part-time residents only, in an effort to combat "vaccine tourism." Beginning yesterday, anyone who makes a vaccine appointment in that state will need to produce proof of residence. Previously, vaccines were administered to anyone 65 years or older.

  • The CDC in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report described 10 cases of anaphylaxis after administration of 4,041,396 first doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. In 9 of the 10 cases, anaphylaxis—a severe allergic reaction—occurred within 15 minutes of vaccination. As was seen in a similar analysis of the Pfizer vaccine, anaphylaxis occurred predominantly in women who have a history of allergic reactions.

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