U.S. Hits 20 Million Cases as COVID Variant Spreads
January 1, 2021 – The United States started 2021 as it finished 2020: setting new records amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The country passed the 20 million coronavirus case mark on Friday, setting the mark around noon, according to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 tracker. The total is almost twice as high as the next worst country – India, which has 10.28 million cases.
Besides the county of cases, more than 346,000 Americans have now died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. This represents 77% more deaths than Brazil, which ranks second in the world with 194,949 deaths.
More than 125,370 coronavirus patients were hospitalized on Thursday, the fourth consecutive record day, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
According to official figures, it took the United States 292 days to reach its first 10 million cases and only 54 more days to double it, CNN reported.
Meanwhile, 12.41 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were distributed in the United States on Wednesday, according to the CDC. Yet only 2.8 million people received the first of a two-dose regimen.
The slower-than-expected rollout of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines comes as a new variant of the coronavirus has emerged in a third state. Florida officials have announced a confirmed case of the new variant – believed to have originated in the UK – in Martin County, southeast Florida.
The state’s health department said on Twitter that the patient was a man in his 20s with no travel history. The ministry said it was working with the CDC to investigate.
The variant has also been confirmed in cases in Colorado and California. It is believed to be more contagious. The BBC reported that the new variant increases reproduction or “R-number” by 0.4 and 0.7. The UK’s most recent R-number has been estimated to be between 1.1 and 1.3, meaning anyone with the coronavirus can be assumed to spread it to up to 1.3 people.
The R number must be less than 1.0 for the spread of the virus to decrease.
“There is a huge difference in the ease with which the variant of the virus is spread,” Professor Axel Gandy of Imperial College London told BBC News. “This is the most serious change in the virus since the start of the epidemic,” he added.
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