COVID-19 cases top 50 million; deaths near 800 thousand

More than 50 million people in the U.S. have fallen ill with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, and nearly 800,000 Americans have died as of Dec. 14 — one year after the first U.S. COVID-19 vaccine was administered — according to data from Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. 

The grim mortality milestone approaches a year after the first COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. was administered to Sandra Lindsay, RN, a critical care and intensive care unit nurse at New York City-based Long Island Jewish Medical Center. Now, about 61 percent of the country's population has been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. 

A Commonwealth Fund report looked at the nation's vaccination program one year later and estimated an additional 1.1 million COVID-19 deaths and 10.3 million additional hospitalizations would have occurred without a vaccine. 

Cases are now on the rise nationwide as the winter season nears, with the daily average sitting at 120,056 new cases on Dec. 13, a nearly 50 percent increase over the last 14 days, data from The New York Times shows. Hospitalizations have also risen about 22 percent across the last two weeks, with a daily average of nearly 67,000 as of Dec. 13. 

The omicron variant, first detected in South Africa, accounts for 3 percent of new U.S. infections, CDC director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said Dec. 14. Preliminary findings indicate the variant cases less severe illness compared to earlier strains, though is more transmissible. In South Africa, Pfizer-BioNtech's vaccine was found to be just 33 percent effective at preventing infections from omicron, though still 70 percent effective at preventing hospitalization from an infection. 


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