In the past 26 days, more than 63,000 Americans lost their lives to the coronavirus. The tragic count makes December the deadliest month since the COVID-19 pandemic began nearly a year ago.
To compare, last month, CNN reported a total of 36,964 deaths.
While December brought the authorizations of two vaccines from the Food and Drug Administration, health experts warn that a holiday surge may still be on its way.
“We very well might see a post-seasonal –– in the sense of Christmas, New Years –– surge,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Sunday (December 27) during CNN’s State of the Union program. He highlighted holiday travel and indoor gatherings still took place despite warnings from health officials.
“If you look at the slope, the incline of cases that we’ve experienced as we’ve gone into the late fall and soon to be early winter, it is really quite troubling,” Dr. Fauci said.
On Saturday (December 26) more than 1.1 million people were screened at airports across the country according to TSA, making it the third busiest day of travel in the US since March. Christmas Day alone saw over 616,000 travelers screened.
Concern for hospital capacity grows among health officials as a record number of Americans are being hospitalized. Saturday (December 26) also marked the fifth-highest number of coronavirus hospitalizations. According to the COVID Tracking Project, more than 117,300 patients were hospitalized nationwide.
Dr. Fauci warned that the weeks ahead could bring more hospitalizations and deaths. “When you’re dealing with a baseline of 200,000 new cases a day and about 2,000 deaths per day, with the hospitalizations over 120,000, we are really at a very critical point,” he said.
The nation has already lost 332,000 to the disease, and predictions from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation show that another 193,000 lives could be lost within the next two months.
“The projections are just nightmarish,” Dr. Peter Hotez, an infectious disease specialist at the Baylor College of Medicine said to ABC News 7. “People can still save the lives of their loved ones by practicing that social distancing and masks. And remember, vaccines are around the corner,” he said.
So far, the CDC predicts about two million Americans have been vaccinated. As the vaccine continues to be rolled out, health officials’ message about wearing masks, avoiding travel, and maintaining social distance remain in place as we look ahead to a new year.
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