The U.S. has surpassed a staggering milestone with more than 30 million coronavirus infections reported, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The country holds the most reported cases in the world, more than doubling the next country down the list, Brazil, where collapsing health systems has international health leaders alarmed.
The grim news comes as the country continues its plateau, logging some 50,000 new cases a day, and expands vaccine eligibility; 14% of the nation’s population has been fully vaccinated, or over 46 million people, with at least 130 million total doses administered, as of Wednesday, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Andy Slavitt, the White House COVID-19 response team’s senior advisor, recently said that in total, about 81 million Americans, or nearly 1 in 3, have received at least the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Some drugmakers are now planning next-generation vaccines and testing booster shots in a bid for more protection against currently circulating variants.
Still, the virus is blamed for more than 540,000 deaths in the U.S., though the number of daily fatalities has been fewer than 1,000 in recent days, down from a January surge topping 4,000 daily deaths.
The country has three approved vaccines in its arsenal, those developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna and a single-shot vaccine from Johnson & Johnson. A fourth vaccine from AstraZeneca is in the pipeline, and the company plans to file for FDA emergency authorization in the coming weeks, though AstraZeneca has faced significant issues overseas after over a dozen mostly European countries temporarily halted shots over reports of blood clots in some vaccinated individuals.
U.K. and EU regulators have both since confirmed the vaccine does not heighten the overall risk for blood clotting, and actually likely reduces the risk because COVID-19 disease itself is a precursor for coagulation. However, the suspended campaigns dented vaccine trust, experts say. This week, the company faced scrutiny after the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said it may have provided an incomplete view of efficacy data. AstraZeneca has since vowed to release a complete analysis in the coming days.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director for the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC), has urged the public to “hang in there for a little while longer” as she warned that emerging variants threaten to rollback progress made. While several states have opted to rescind public health measures put in place for the better part of a year, she has urged residents in these regions to take it upon themselves to continue wearing masks, practice social distancing and to get vaccinated when a shot is made available.
She said footage of Spring Breakers who likely have not received the COVID-19 vaccine flouting mitigation measures are concerning. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, also said that now is not the time to declare victory despite progress made on the vaccination front.
“Are we turning the corner? My response is really it’s more like we are at the corner,” he said during Wednesday’s White House COVID-19 briefing. “Whether or not we are going to be turning that corner remains to be seen.”
Fox News’ Alexandria Hein contributed to this report.