“We’re going to see a lot of deaths in the next two months but there is a ray of sunshine,” Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a George Washington University medical professor and CNN medical analyst, said Monday on “New Day.”
“Over the last four days for the first time in months, we’ve seen a steady decline … a thousand per day fewer hospitalizations in the United States,” he said. “We’ve seen the same trend in new cases.”
Nationally, hospitalizations are now around 124,000 per day, down from 132,000 a few weeks ago. Reiner also said testing has increased in recent weeks, but test positivity has dropped to around 11% from a peak of 14% a few weeks ago.
“All of those metrics point to the conclusion that we may have passed the peak,” he said. “If we stay put now and we mask up and we get vaccines into arms as quickly as possible, we can start to get a hold of this pandemic.”
Still, Covid-related deaths are nearing 400,000 in the United States and multiple US states have now reported cases of a new Covid-19 variant first detected in the UK.
The number of cases of this variant are likely to “double every week,” according to Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner.
“In about five weeks, this is going to start to take over,” Gottlieb said during an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
“The only backstop against this new variant is the fact that we will have a lot of infection by then so there’ll be a lot of immunity in the population, and we will be vaccinating more people,” he added. “But this really changes the equation and I think what we’re looking at is a relentless strike from this virus, heading into the spring.”
“We could have persistently high levels of infection in the spring until we finally get enough people vaccinated.”
And while Covid-19 variants are not necessarily more deadly, they still can cause more deaths, Dr. Anthony Fauci told NBC Sunday.
“Even though on a one-to-one basis, it’s not more virulent, meaning it doesn’t make you more sick or more likely to die, just by numbers alone, the more cases you have, the more hospitalizations you’re going to have, and the more hospitalizations you have, the more deaths you’re going to have,” Fauci said.
A new Covid-19 variant is now “increasingly being found in multiple counties throughout California,” state health officials announced Sunday in a news release.
The variant, known as 452R, is different from the B.1.1.7 variant first detected in the United Kingdom, health officials say. As testing for variants has ramped up in California, the 452R version has been identified more frequently since November and has been identified in large outbreaks in Santa Clara County.
“It’s too soon to know if this variant will spread more rapidly than others, but it certainly reinforces the need for all Californians to wear masks and reduce mixing with people outside their immediate households to help slow the spread of the virus,” said California Department of Public Health epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan.
US approaching 400,000 Covid-19 deaths
And it’s far higher than any other country’s Covid-19 death toll.
“The numbers are quite dire,” Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN Sunday night.
Hotez estimates it’s closer to a million new infections daily.
“This is a screaming level of transmission across the United States and people are scared, people are upset,” Hotez added. “There is an enormous amount of work that’s going to have to happen starting January 20.”
“By the middle of February, we expect half a million deaths in this country,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, told “Face the Nation.”
“We still yet haven’t seen the ramifications of what happened from the holiday travel, from holiday gathering, in terms of high rates of hospitalizations and the deaths thereafter,” Walensky added.
Hospitals under ‘severe stress’ in next month
That’s already been the case in different parts across the country.
Pennsylvania officials said late last week there were more than 4,900 people hospitalized with Covid-19 — nearly double spring’s peak.
“We truly are in the darkest days,” Dr. Deepak Aggarwal, with Northeast Georgia Medical Center, told the news station.
12 million Americans have gotten first vaccine dose
That’s as the country is just days away from President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
“Our plan is as clear as it is bold: Get more people vaccinated for free. Create more places for them to get vaccinated. Mobilize more medical teams to get the shots in people’s arms. Increase supply and get it out the door as soon as possible,” Biden said last week.
CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas and Jacqueline Howard contributed to this report.