Just over a year since the first reported Covid-19 case in the US, the country nears 25 million infections

The founding head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU School of Medicine, Art Caplan, explains to CNN's Michael Smerconish why people who are offered the Covid-19 vaccine should not attempt to turn it down for another person's benefit.

Posted: Jan 24, 2021 7:13 AM
Updated: Jan 24, 2021 7:20 AM


The US is again quickly approaching another grim milestone: 25 million Covid-19 cases in a little more than a year since the country reported its first infection.

The devastating number is more than double the number of infections reported in India, which has the second-highest number of cases after the US, according to Johns Hopkins University data. And it's nearly triple the number of cases in Brazil -- with the third-highest number of cases in the world, according to Johns Hopkins.

And while some states have reported encouraging trends in the past weeks, experts warn the US is still not out of the woods -- and Covid-19 variants could pose further challenges.

Particularly one variant, which was first identified in the UK. It's now been detected in at least 22 states, according to data posted Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Washington state health officials announced Saturday they found the variant in "testing samples" in the state.

"We're now in that second half of fighting this pandemic," Washington Secretary of Health Umair A. Shah said during a news conference. "It's very important for us to really double down on our efforts to prevent this strain as well as any strain from taking over, because we want to make sure that transmission does not happen in our state and the best way to do that is prevention, prevention, prevention."

Earlier this month, the CDC warned the variant appeared to be more easily transmissible and its numbers in the US could see "rapid growth" in early 2021.

'More very bad news'

Now scientists at the CDC are speaking with UK health officials to learn more about data suggesting the same variant could be more deadly.

A UK report released Friday states there is "a realistic possibility" that the new variant has a higher death rate than other variants.

"The data is mounting -- and some of it I can't share -- that clearly supports that B.1.1.7 is causing more severe illness and increased death," infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm said. "Already we know this variant has increased transmission, and so this is more very bad news."

But National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins said Saturday it's still too soon to tell if the variant is more deadly, telling MSNBC, "this is very preliminary data."

"It looks as if, if you look at 1,000 people who got infected with Covid-19, generally about 1%, 10 of them, would die of it. Maybe with this virus, it would be 13 instead of 10," Collins said. "That's a small difference."

He added that the numbers could possibly also be a "consequence of the fact that the UK health system is really overwhelmed."

"That has an effect also on mortality," Collins added.

The good news? Studies so far suggest vaccines will also protect against the variant and that the same measures that can help prevent infections -- including mask wearing, social distancing and regular hand washing -- continue to be key in the effort to curb the spread.

More than 20 million vaccine doses administered in US

CDC data shows more than 20.5 million vaccine doses have been administered across the country -- with more than 3 million Americans having received both doses.

While the vaccine rollout throughout the country has been slower than officials had hoped, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Saturday that if Johnson & Johnson's vaccine is authorized for emergency use, the US could see a significant boost in available doses by May. That vaccine only requires one dose, instead of the two necessary for the current Covid-19 vaccines.

"I would anticipate that within a period of likely no more than two weeks, that the data will be looked at by the Data and Safety Monitoring Board," Fauci told MSNBC. And if the data is strong enough, the next step would be presenting it to the Food and Drug Administration for an emergency use authorization, he said.

"Let's say they do ... get an EUA in February, by the time they get a meaningful amount of doses, it likely will be a month or two following that," he said. "Once they get going into May, June, July, August, then you're going to see a sharp escalation of additional doses of this one-dose vaccine."

Meanwhile, the FDA also told CNN Saturday that if absolutely necessary, "modest delays" between first and second doses of the current Covid-19 vaccines are not expected to decrease protection against the virus.

The agency said it "recognizes that getting as many people as possible across the country fully immunized will help to curtail the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 and should be a priority."

Previously, the FDA had warned changes to vaccine schedules without appropriate data could put public health at risk.

The CDC also updated its guidance to say second doses of vaccines may be scheduled up to six weeks after initial doses, if necessary, adding second doses should be administered as close as possible to the recommended interval -- three weeks after the first dose for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and four weeks for the Moderna vaccine.

Hospital leader: 'We truly are in the darkest days'

That all comes as the US continues to fight a brutal battle against the virus.

More than 113,600 Americans are hospitalized with the virus nationwide, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

Los Angeles County -- which for weeks has been the epicenter of the state's Covid-19 crisis -- has now surpassed 15,000 Covid-19 deaths, health officials said Saturday.

And more than 6,800 people remain hospitalized with the virus -- 24% of whom are in the ICU.

"While we are seeing some positive data in daily new cases and hospitalizations, we are far from out of the woods," Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. "It is critically important we slow COVID-19 spread to decompress the strain on our healthcare system and save lives."

In Georgia, one healthcare official described a grim image of the grip of the virus.

"We truly are in the darkest days of this pandemic," Dr. Deepak Aggarwal, at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center, told CNN Saturday night. "We are seeing more than 200 patients per day now, than we normally see at this time of the year. "

"And also, we're dealing with the increasing number of deaths. Our system normally deals with less than 10 deaths per month and we have already had 169 deaths as of January 21."

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(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1605320

Reported Deaths: 27132
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook61354910964
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Will873121089
Lake771121060
Kane65888850
Winnebago39007544
Madison38143576
St. Clair35003569
McHenry33032316
Peoria25972362
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Sangamon24588271
McLean21879207
Tazewell19736326
Rock Island17806344
Kankakee16784234
Kendall15459106
LaSalle14496275
Macon14478240
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Adams12695148
DeKalb11667128
Williamson11419157
Whiteside7897176
Jackson769188
Boone760082
Coles7341112
Ogle713486
Grundy701281
Franklin686899
Clinton681498
Knox6651164
Marion6547138
Macoupin646399
Henry620474
Jefferson6060132
Effingham604382
Livingston571295
Woodford554291
Stephenson546289
Randolph529297
Monroe508199
Christian491780
Fulton487970
Morgan487296
Logan477474
Montgomery467476
Lee458156
Bureau427188
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Iroquois394673
McDonough354956
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Shelby311843
Douglas306636
Crawford304130
Lawrence301131
Union296747
Wayne274057
White265930
Richland262054
Hancock256334
Pike255956
Cass250928
Clark250738
Bond244024
Clay240047
Ford235256
Edgar234744
Carroll225437
Warren224960
Johnson213524
Moultrie211831
Jo Daviess206126
Washington206127
Wabash200915
Greene200739
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Massac198144
De Witt195530
Piatt190814
Mercer190634
Cumberland178325
Menard158612
Jasper152418
Marshall134721
Hamilton128821
Brown10178
Pulaski98311
Schuyler9688
Edwards96315
Stark76827
Gallatin7435
Scott6975
Alexander67611
Henderson65114
Calhoun6442
Hardin56013
Putnam5444
Pope4815
Unassigned1882432
Out of IL40

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 941120

Reported Deaths: 15315
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1282511983
Lake633041097
Allen53609758
Hamilton43827447
St. Joseph41906590
Elkhart33545490
Vanderburgh30383448
Tippecanoe26820249
Johnson23609417
Hendricks22250341
Porter21737346
Clark17409229
Madison17366384
Vigo16108281
Monroe14466191
LaPorte14311239
Delaware14070221
Howard13865272
Kosciusko11418135
Hancock10841165
Warrick10674177
Bartholomew10542168
Floyd10430205
Wayne9959226
Grant9130204
Morgan8865160
Boone8389111
Dubois7710123
Dearborn762289
Henry7608130
Noble7413101
Marshall7362128
Cass7176117
Lawrence6957153
Shelby6584111
Jackson656785
Gibson6156107
Harrison603786
Huntington600195
Montgomery5805105
DeKalb574291
Knox5494104
Miami542488
Putnam536768
Clinton533665
Whitley524953
Steuben497268
Wabash483592
Jasper479160
Jefferson470092
Ripley454277
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Scott405865
White391857
Clay390857
Greene388392
Decatur385296
Wells384983
Fayette374278
Posey359941
Jennings353156
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Spencer317835
Fountain316555
Randolph312888
Sullivan307449
Owen283863
Starke280064
Fulton277553
Orange275859
Jay254837
Perry251652
Carroll243729
Franklin239338
Rush234130
Vermillion233250
Parke219820
Tipton209655
Pike207639
Blackford168334
Pulaski163551
Crawford146018
Newton144345
Benton142516
Brown135346
Martin128217
Switzerland125810
Warren114616
Union96911
Ohio79711
Unassigned0479