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U.S. sees 210K more COVID-19 cases, 1.4K deaths after big weekend spike

By Don Jacobson & Daniel Uria
U.S. sees 210K more COVID-19 cases, 1.4K deaths after big weekend spike
Nurse practitioner Christy Kay prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis on December 17. File photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 4 (UPI) -- The United States recorded another 200,000 COVID-19 infections and nearly 1,400 deaths on Sunday after setting new highs during the weekend, updated data from Johns Hopkins University showed.

There were 210,500 confirmed new infections, one day after the United States shattered its all-time record with nearly 297,000 infections in a single day, the JHU researchers reported.

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The U.S. seven-day average rose to nearly 214,000 new daily cases, a 16% jump over last week, according to the health news website Stat.

Meanwhile, 1,396 more Americans died -- about 1,000 fewer than on Saturday. However, statistics released on Mondays usually are lower due to delays in reporting over the weekend.

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Since the start of the pandemic, the United States has logged 20.6 million COVID-19 cases and 351,590 deaths.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday afternoon announced the state had reported its first case of the COVID-19 variant first discovered in Britain.

"An individual from Saratoga County, New York, tested positive for the strain. The individual had no known travel history," Cuomo said.

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New York became the fourth state where an individual tested positive for the strain following Colorado, California and Florida.

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday said the state had reported a total of six cases of the variant including four patients in San Diego and two in San Bernadino.

After briefly falling below the 125,000 mark on Saturday, hospitalizations nationwide rose to more than 125,500 on Sunday, according to the COVID Tracking Project. There have been at least 100,000 Americans hospitalized every day for more than a month.

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Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar on Monday defended the nationwide rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, describing delays in delivering them to states as "normal."

Azar, appearing on ABC's Good Morning America, said he is "surprised there haven't been more glitches" in what is "the largest vaccination campaign in the history of the United States."

The Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed vaccine program was criticized last week after only 2 million people were vaccinated by the end of December -- far below government goals of 20 million vaccinations.

A total of 4.28 million doses were given nationwide by Saturday, according to a tally by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Azar, however, maintained the rollout remains "on track."

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"We said our goal was to have 20 million first doses available in the month of December," he said. "Those are available, but there's a lag between doses being available, them being ordered by the providers in the states, shipping and then eventual vaccination, especially when you have Christmas and New Year's in the middle."

Moderna announced Monday it is raising the lower end of its global manufacturing plan for 2021 to 600 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine from 500 million doses previously.

In the United States, Moderna said it expects about 100 million doses to be available by the end of the first quarter of 2021 with 200 million available by the second quarter. To date, approximately 18 million doses have been supplied to the U.S. government, Moderna reported.

The Food and Drug Administration this week will consider whether half-doses of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine should be given to people between ages 18 to 55, according to a top Operation Warp Speed official.

Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser for the Trump administration's vaccine program, told CNN Sunday the agency will examine making the move in order to vaccinate twice as many people in that age group.

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The FDA will look into cutting the current 100-microgram dose in half, with another half-dose coming after 28 days. Clinical trial data showed similar effectiveness for the Moderna vaccine at either dose level.

Slaoui said it was unclear if the similar "messenger RNA" vaccine produced by Pfizer would also be a candidate for dose cutting since its recommended dose is smaller at 30 micrograms.

The FDA has not yet begun discussing that as a possibility, he said.

In other COVID-19 news Monday:

  • The unions representing Hollywood screen actors and producers have recommended a temporary hold on in-person movie and television productions in Southern California due to rampant COVID-19 spread in the state. The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the Producers Guild of America noted the capacity crisis facing hospitals in Southern California due to the pandemic.
  • Inauguration celebrations for President-elect Joe Biden will include a virtual parade instead of the traditional march in the Capitol due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Biden Inaugural Committee said Sunday that the Jan. 20 event will include a "Virtual Parade Across America" that will be televised live.

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