US passes 20 million Covid-19 cases amid alarming vaccine distribution delays

By Lucia Leal

Washington, Jan 1 (efe-epa).- The United States began the new year on a grim note as the number of Covid-19 cases on Friday surpassed 20 million with a more contagious strain of the virus detected in another state amid growing concerns over the delays in the vaccination campaign.

The total number of infections in the US has doubled in less than two months, since 10 million cases were recorded until Nov 9, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Fatalities due to the virus outbreak have also mounted to 346,800 in the country, which in December registered several daily records in the number of deaths from Covid-19.

The US accounts for 24 percent of the 83.7 million Covid-19 infections in the world.

The number of Covid-19 cases in the US is almost double that of India, the second-worst hit nation, even as the population of the Asian country is almost four times more than that of America.

The detection in the country of the mutant virus, first detected in Britain, which can be up to 70 percent more contagious, is likely to pile up pressure on already overwhelmed hospitals in the US.

Florida became the third state in the US to detect a case of the British strain of the virus after Colorado and California.

Health authorities in Florida said a man, in his 20s, with no travel history had contracted the new variant of the virus.

Experts believe the new strain is more widespread in the US than has been detected.

The new variant is likely to catch on rapidly and become the predominant form in the US by March, Trevor Bedford, an evolutionary biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, told The New York Times.

The crisis is complicated due to the slow progress in beginning the vaccination campaign due to delays in distribution and other logistical problems, reminiscent of the fiasco that marked the start of Covid-19 tests in March last year.

Republican Senator Mitt Romney slammed the vaccine distribution roll out and warned that the process of distribution was “falling behind.”

“That comprehensive vaccination plans have not been developed at the federal level and sent to the states as models is as incomprehensible as it is inexcusable,” Romney said in a statement on Friday.

The senator criticized the government of outgoing President Donald Trump the administration should call on people who have carried out widespread vaccination programs elsewhere or in the past and learn from their experience.

“Second, enlist every medical professional, retired or active, who is not currently engaged in the delivery of care. This could include veterinarians, combat medics and corpsmen, medical students, EMS professionals, first responders, and many others who could be easily trained to administer vaccines,” he said.

Romney said congress has already appropriated funding for states so that these professionals could be fully compensated.

“Establish vaccination sites throughout the state, perhaps in every school. Make sure that a medical professional is in each school building to be able to respond to a reaction that might occur.”

As of Wednesday, less than 2.8 million people had received the first dose of the vaccine, which is just 14 percent of the 20 million Americans that the government planned to immunize before the end of December, according to data from the Control Centers and Disease Prevention (CDC).

The actual number of vaccinations may be higher due to the delay in reporting the figures for each state, but health authorities have acknowledged that the gap is “disappointing.”

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