TAOS, NM, December 10 (Reuters) – Almost a year after the United States first administered COVID-19 vaccines, the country is returning to many of the characteristics that defined past pandemic life: mask warrants, sites immunizations, overcrowded hospitals and a growing number of deaths.
In hopes that humanity will soon gain the upper hand over the coronavirus, New York intensive care unit (ICU) nurse Sandra Lindsay has just received a dose of the Pfizer (PFE.N) vaccine. approved on December 14, becoming the first resident US vaccine.
Since then, more than 200 million more – more than 60% of the American population – have received at least two doses of Pfizer / BioNTech or Moderna (MRNA.O) vaccines or a single injection of Johnson & Johnson, according to the Centers. for Disaster Control and Prevention.
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Despite this triumph of modern science, the death toll in the country continues to rise. Since the first dose was administered, nearly 500,000 more people have died from COVID-19, with the country set to cross the 800,000 mark next week, according to a Reuters tally.
Both infections – nearly 50 million since the start of the pandemic – and deaths have increased in recent weeks, especially as colder weather in northern states pushes activity indoors, allowing more transmission. easy from the virus.
The resurgence of infections on Friday prompted New York Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, to temporarily reimpose the requirement to cover one’s face in businesses and places that do not require proof of vaccination.
“We shouldn’t have reached the point where we are facing a winter wave, especially with the vaccine at our disposal, and I share the frustration of many New Yorkers that we have not yet passed this pandemic,” Hochul said in a statement.
Mask warrants, which Republican governors have mostly avoided due to government overbreadth, were a common infection prevention tool for many Democratic governors during the worst wave of the pandemic, which began during the season. end of year holidays 2020.
The fight against the virus has been complicated by its more aggressive mutations, including the currently dominant Delta variant and the rapidly spreading Omicron, which was first identified last month and has already been detected in almost half of 50 states.
The politicization of vaccines and the reluctance of many Americans to get vaccinated have also helped keep the pandemic going, usually with more deadly results, experts said.
In New Mexico, hospitals are reaching record levels as unvaccinated patients fill intensive care units.
In one of the hardest-hit hospitals in southwestern San Juan County, intensive care beds filled as quickly as patients were discharged or died. Dr Erin Philpott said eight of his patients died last week, most of whom were unvaccinated.
âIt’s hard to feel sometimes because it’s so much and it’s constant,â Philpott said.
“You can see the rooms fill up right after, and you don’t have a second to pause and just deal with all this loss.” Philpott added that many of the people who died from COVID-19 at the San Juan Regional Medical Center were in their 30s and 40s, and mostly men.
About 94% of hospital deaths from COVID-19 are among the unvaccinated. âIt feels like it’s impossible to keep seeing this and dealing with it,â Philpott said. “I think that’s why half the staff left.”
Nurse Patricia Thomas stood next to a deceased patient she had treated, a white sheet over her body, a photo of her family at her feet. His relatives have made the decision to remove him from life support. He has not been vaccinated. He had five children and 12 grandchildren.
Choking back tears, Sanders said, “We pulled the tubes out and let them hold his hand as he passed comfortably. Today was pretty tough as it’s my third this week.”
‘FUEL FOR THIS FIRE’
As with other states with high early vaccination rates like Vermont, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, immunity has waned in New Mexico, pushing those states to the top of the rankings for new cases.
Democratic state governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has pushed vaccinations into early 2021 in an attempt to limit hospitalizations.
“The fuel for this fire, our case counts, are unvaccinated individuals,” New Mexico Acting Secretary of Health David Scrase told reporters. “Our hospitals are in a really serious situation.”
Three in four COVID patients in the state are unvaccinated, officials said. The same was true for Michigan, facing one of the nation’s worst epidemics.
In Connecticut, health officials said this week that unvaccinated people are five times more likely to be infected with COVID-19, 12 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 16 times more likely to die.
Shortly after the Omicron variant was detected in New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy this week reopened one of the state’s previously closed mass vaccination sites in an effort to encourage residents to get vaccinated. .
Most of the large vaccination sites that states opened earlier this year to speed up inoculations have closed.
The CDC estimates that about a quarter of Americans have received additional booster shots so far. They are now permitted for anyone aged 16 and over.
Another symbol of the start of the pandemic, the contaminated cruise ship, also reappeared this week.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH.N) said on Monday that a South African crew member suspected of having the Omicron variant was among 17 cases of the virus detected on a ship that disembarked in New Orleans this weekend.
In March 2020, when relatively few cases were reported in the United States, the Grand Princess cruise ship was held at sea for days before being cleared to dock in Oakland, California. Its 2,400 passengers have been quarantined at military bases after tests revealed 21 positive cases of the coronavirus.
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Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York and Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Additional reporting by Shannon Stapleton, Caroline Humer and Roshan Abraham; Editing by Donna Bryson, Bill Berkrot and Jonathan Oatis
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