The incoming Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky warned on Sunday the U.S. is likely to see “dark weeks ahead,” with the death toll due to coronavirus potentially set to hit half a million by mid-February.
On CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Walensky, chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, said that despite nearly 4,000 deaths a day, the country still isn’t seeing the true ramifications of holiday travel and gatherings.
As of Monday, the U.S. had tallied nearly 24 million cases of coronavirus and over 397,800 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Walensky also noted that in addition to the overwhelming number of COVID-19 patients, there are thousands of additional cases involving coronavirus survivors who are dealing with post-illness symptoms, or so-called “long-haulers.”
President-elect Joe Biden has said his administration aims to vaccinate 100 million people in his first 100 days in office, which Dr. Anthony Fauci later said is “absolutely a doable thing.” However, some have questioned whether production will be high enough to meet the demand for supply.
In New York, for example, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that the state’s allotment had been cut last week from the 300,000 allocations down to 250,000, and came at a time when the region moved to expand distribution.
And Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said that the Trump administration’s promise to send the rest of the federal stockpile came up short when they found out no such supply existed.
“I was told by the vice president, a couple [of] days ago, and the secretary of health services that they’re opening the gates, we’re going to send you the remainder of what was stockpiled,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “I guess they may have been telling the truth because it’s zero.”
Walensky said that the Biden administration will “address all of the bottlenecks” in vaccine production.
According to the CDC, the country has distributed 31.1 million doses of vaccine, but only 12.2 million have been administered. The Trump administration recently advised states to expand distribution to include those 65 and older in addition to seniors and health care workers, but not every region has been quick to act.