For months, even as early as summer 2020, top health officials have warned of a dangerous winter surge of the coronavirus. Now that the holiday season has passed, we have seen the truth of those warnings. Coronavirus infections have continued to rise in nearly two-thirds of the 50 United States. These rising infections have pushed the total coronavirus death toll past the shocking 400,000 mark.
Now, in addition to dealing with this winter surge, new variants of COVID-19 with greater infectious power than the original strain are being uncovered. How did this surge happen?
Despite shutdowns and warnings across the United States, in many parts of the country, people continued to gather with their families for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve. Some may have felt safe by gathering with only close family and friends, while others might have been unwilling to let the holiday season go by celebrating alone and without seeing family members. Still more are simply experiencing “pandemic fatigue,” struggling to take the virus and precautions seriously the longer the pandemic drags on.
But the unfortunate consequence of these attitudes is a resulting, and devastating, winter surge of infections and even more deaths. On January 18, 2021, the total number of coronavirus cases throughout the United States topped out above 24 million (24,018,793), and total deaths rose to 398,307. California became the first state in the US to report more than 3 million cases, and the United States remains the hardest-hit nation in the world in this pandemic, making up more than 25 percent of global cases and 19 percent of deaths.
Now, in addition to dealing with the consequences of the winter surge, Americans are faced with a slower than expected vaccine rollout and multiple new variants of the virus, many of which are expected to be more efficient at spreading than the original. Though not yet proven to be more deadly, these faster-spreading viruses are still a huge concern. With a faster spread, more infections, hospitalizations, and deaths are inevitable.
Although most of these variants are still expected to respond to the coronavirus vaccine, America is lagging with a lackluster vaccine rollout. Original expectations for vaccinations in the US were set as 20 million by the end of December 2020, but by January 20, 2021, expected actual vaccinations is predicted to be just around 11 million. With nearly 31.2 million doses distributed, health officials fear those numbers are too low.