US sets single-day record with 3,784 Covid deaths, 250,000 new cases

Vice-President Pence to get coronavirus vaccine Friday, says White House

By: AFP      Published: 10:24 AM, 17 Dec, 2020
US sets single-day record with 3,784 Covid deaths, 250,000 new cases

The United States set a grim double record Wednesday notching more than 3,700 deaths and more than 250,000 new Covid-19 cases in 24 hours, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

The country has seen a spectacular spike in Covid infections for more than a month now, with some 113,000 people currently hospitalized due to the virus, also a new record, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

The tally marks the third time in the past week that the United States has crossed the 3,000 deaths threshold. The previous 24-hour record was set in late April at the height of the country's first wave -- which never totally ended.

Over the last two weeks, the number of new Covid-19 cases in 24 hours has climbed above 200,000 for 11 out of 14 days.

Wednesday's exact death toll was 3,784 fatalities over the previous 24 hours leading up to 8:30 pm (0130 GMT Thursday).

Health officials had feared the US Thanksgiving holiday in late November would lead to a fresh outbreak of the novel coronavirus after millions of Americans traveled to join friends and family. 

Experts now fear the situation will become even more dire following end of year celebrations, including the Christmas holiday.

The latest records were set even as the United States undergoes its first week of a mass vaccination program aimed at stopping the surging pandemic.

On Monday the first Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine injections were administered in the United States, although authorities warn it will still be months before a large enough portion of the population is immunized.

Faced with the urgency of the situation and fears of vaccine shortages, the US Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday that six or even seven doses could be squeezed out of vials that were supposed to contain only five doses to avoid unused vaccine being discarded. 

"At this time, given the public health emergency, FDA is advising that it is acceptable to use every full dose obtainable," it said in a tweet, adding that Pfizer was on board with the recommendation.

Meanwhile, US Vice-President Mike Pence and his wife will get the Covid-19 vaccine Friday in a public display designed to boost national confidence, the White House announced Wednesday.

Pence and his wife Karen Pence "will publicly receive a Covid-19 vaccine to promote the safety and efficacy of the vaccine and build confidence among the American people," the White House said in a statement.

The event, due to be held at the White House, comes in the first week of a mass vaccination program aimed at stopping the surging coronavirus pandemic, which has already killed more than 300,000 Americans.

In addition to the Pences, the vaccine will be administered at the same time to Surgeon General Jerome Adams, the lead public health official in the country.

The public display illustrates the seriousness of the challenges facing the authorities not only in distributing vaccines across the huge country, but overcoming sceptism after months of mixed messaging from President Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters that Trump is also "absolutely open to taking the vaccine."

However, since he recently recovered from a bout of Covid-19, he is thought to be currently immune.

"He will receive the vaccine as soon as his medical team determines it’s best. But his priority is frontline workers, those in long-term care facilities," McEnany said.

President-elect Joe Biden, who won election in November after a campaign heavily critical of Trump's leadership during the pandemic, says he intends to take the vaccine in public soon.

At 78, Biden is in a prime risk category for the disease.