A year to the day since the first diagnosed case of coronavirus in the US, Joe Biden has taken office in the midst of a pandemic that has stretched the hospital’s resources to its limits and claimed the lives of approximately 400,000 Americans.
In his inauguration address Wednesday, the president reflected on a “deadly virus” that had also cost millions of jobs and closed businesses and called for a unified response to what he said is “perhaps the most severe and deadliest period of the virus.”
The new government takes office at a time of competing forces that could pull the pandemic’s evolution in any direction. Leaders and public health officials are rushing to keep vaccine rollouts on track and restore public confidence in an effort to reduce the risks of a newly identified, more contagious strain of the disease as the death toll rises.
Since the start of the pandemic in the US, nearly 24 million Americans have tested positive for coronavirus, while 392,428 people have died, according to data from the Covid Tracking Project Tuesday. Johns Hopkins University, using an alternative methodology, has reported a death toll in excess of 400,000.
States have attributed more than 53,000 deaths to the coronavirus in January so far, about 24,000 deaths for the December toll, the pandemic’s deadliest month to date. The CDC estimates that the number of American fatalities from the pandemic could reach 508,000 on Feb. 13.
In his first act as President, Mr. Biden summoned the crowds in the Capitol and at home to join him for a moment of silent prayer to commemorate the people who died as a result of the pandemic in the past year.
Headlines underscore the magnitude of the pandemic in the US, but recent trends suggest that some reprieve could come after an increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths that peaked in early January in the wake of the holiday season.
According to data from the Covid Tracking Project, the US had an average of 197,930 cases per day for the past week. Ten days earlier, the US had an average of 244,707 cases per day.
The number of people hospitalized with coronavirus was 123,820, the latest project data for tracking showed. Although this is the lowest level in more than two weeks, medical resources across the country have come under pressure due to the number of patients being treated.
Deaths tend to lag trends in hospital admissions and cases. For the first time this month, the US saw the daily death toll from the pandemic exceed 4,000 several times. However, that trend has declined in recent days and the US has had an average of 2,997 deaths per day for the past week.
Mr. Biden has pledged to vaccinate 100 million Americans within the first 100 days of his service, and also plans to call on everyone in the country to wear a mask during that time.
In the five weeks since the first vaccines were shipped, about 36 million doses have been distributed across states, but so far only 14.3 million people have received at least one injection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – well below the goal of Trump administration to have distributed 20 million jabs by the end of 2020.
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