Covid-19 hospitalizations across the US are the highest they’ve ever been as nation rings in new year



And some local leaders warn the worst is still ahead. “We are still going to have our toughest and darkest days,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told CNN.

In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp said a convention center will begin accepting patients at the end of this week and will have an additional 60 beds to “help ensure that our hospitals continue to have the capacity they need for Covid and non-Covid patients.”

Arizona health officials say new cases remain high and there are increased hospitalizations and deaths.

“Even without Covid-19, winter is an especially busy season for hospitals. Amid this pandemic and the surge in cases, more than 90% of intensive care unit beds are in use this week with more than half of those beds occupied by Covid-19 patients,” Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said in a video message posted on Twitter.

And experts have warned numbers nationwide could climb further in the coming weeks — a surge stemming from the gatherings and travels that took place over the holidays.

Despite repeated calls from both local and state leaders for people to celebrate with only members of their household, millions of Americans opted to spend time away from home. On Wednesday, the Transportation Security Administration reported its fourth-busiest day of the pandemic, screening more than a million people for the fifth straight day.

How vaccine distributions are going

Vaccinations are ongoing across the country but experts say it will be months before vaccines are widespread enough to turn the course of the pandemic.

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Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards on Thursday announced doses of the Covid-19 vaccine will be available to pharmacies in limited supply starting January 4 to be administered to people who are 70 and older as well health care workers.

The initial supply, the governor’s office said, will be “extremely limited and people must contact a designated pharmacy to make appointments before going in to be vaccinated.”

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday he hoped the city can administer a million doses by the end of January.

“Like any good New Year’s resolution, one million doses by the end of January is an ambitious goal to say the least,” he said. “We are doing everything we can to vaccinate as many New Yorkers as possible, but to really pick up the pace, we need our federal and state partners on board — and fast. It will be tough, but I believe that we can do it.”

As distribution expands to the general public, the mayor said that the vaccine will be available to hard-hit neighborhoods first.

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So far, more than 12.4 million vaccine doses have been distributed nationwide and more than 2.7 million have been administered. The roll-out has been slower than many officials expected, but if the US is able to “catch up” in 2021, widespread vaccination could be possible starting in April, Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

“Let’s say in April, it will be what I call “open season,” namely, anybody who wants to get vaccinated can get vaccinated,” Fauci said. “If we then diligently vaccinate people in April, May, June, July, then we will gradually and noticeably get a degree of protection approaching herd immunity.”

By the time early fall rolls around, Fauci said, “we will have enough good herd immunity to be able to really get back to some strong semblance of normality.”

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Florida has evidence of UK variant case

Meanwhile, more states are now beginning to report cases of the Covid-19 variant that was first detected in the UK.

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Florida health officials announced the state has evidence of the first case of the variant in a man in his 20s with no history of travel.

“The Department is working with the CDC on this investigation. We encourage all to continue practicing Covid-19 mitigation,” the state’s health department wrote on Twitter.

California health officials also said earlier this week the variant was detected in a 30-year-old San Diego man, who is not hospitalized and had very few social interactions during his potential contagious period.

The first known case of the variant in the US was identified in Colorado, in a man in his 20s who has no travel history.

But experts have said they expect there are likely many more cases across the country that have just not been detected.

“An unknown travel history means that this person picked it up the community,” Dr. Atul Gawande, a member of the Biden-Harris transition Covid-19 advisory board, previously told CNN.

“If this mutation, this mutated virus, which is more contagious, is not widespread yet and beginning to spread, that means it will be even more important to follow the approaches we know work,” he said.

CNN’s Sarah Moon, Jennifer Henderson and Kristina Sgueglia contributed to this report.



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