States call in National Guard, train volunteers to help boost vaccination pace as US hits a COVID-19 daily death toll record

coronavirus COVID-19
Posted at 9:04 AM, Jan 06, 2021

The US reported its highest daily COVID-19 death count ever Tuesday -- a grim milestonethat comes as state leaders work urgently to combat a slow pace of vaccinations.

More than 3,770 American deaths were reported in one day -- more than two dozen above the country's previous record, set less than a week ago. The country also topped 21 million infections Tuesday and set a hospitalization record, with more than 131,100 COVID-19 hospitalized patients nationwide, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

As numbers climb, governors are now taking new measures to get the distributed vaccines into arms faster, including mobilizing National Guard members and training more volunteers to administer vaccines.

The federal government's Operation Warp Speed said it distributed more than 3 million vaccines on Tuesday -- bringing the US total of distributed vaccines to more than 19 million. Earlier Tuesday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data showed 17 million doses had been distributed and more than 4.8 million had been administered.

That means only about 28% of the distributed doses have been administered.

Here's how states are boosting vaccination efforts

In California -- a state that'sbeen ravaged by the virus -- just 27% of the vaccines distributed have made it into arms. The problem in some places: not enough people to give the vaccine.

"Everyone is scrambling to get as many vaccinators as possible while every staff member is needed to assist with the surge," Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Tuesday.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom promised "aggressive action" to accelerate the process, including granting a waiver that will allow dentists to administer the vaccine after undergoing training.

In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan announced the Maryland National Guard will begin dispatching emergency vaccination support teams across the state to help local health departments in tasks including administering vaccines. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper alsoannouncedTuesday he mobilized the state's National Guard to help speed the pace of vaccinations.

Arizona National Guard members, meanwhile, have been "conducting refresher training to the first wave of Arizona residents who have volunteers to support vaccination sites statewide."

Both the rollout of vaccines and their administration were off to a "slow start," Dr. Anthony Fauci said, but added things will likely move faster all across the country in the coming months.

"We need to do better at every level, but I believe we will pick up momentum as we get beyond the holiday season into the first couple of weeks of January," Fauci told Newsday's Randi Marshall Tuesday.

"We have to be really careful, Randi, that we don't jump to a conclusion based on a very short time period, because we just started," Fauci said. "The government and the locals, including the governors and the mayors and others, have just started in the last couple of weeks in December, right in the middle of the holiday season."

In one county, more than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths in a week

But vaccination efforts are not all that local and state leaders are worried about. After a holiday season during whichmillions of Americans traveled -- despite experts' advice -- some officials now report alarming trends.

"We're at three times the hospitalizations we saw in November and almost seven times where we were in October," Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, the chief medical officer for Ohio's health department, said Tuesday. "Our ICU beds are also very busy. In fact, our ICUs are caring for over 1,000 patients and more than a quarter of our ICU beds are filled with Covid care."

In California, Los Angeles County health officials saidTuesday there have been more than 1,000 new COVID-19 deaths in less than a week.

"While vaccines are a powerful tool, we do not need to wait for vaccines to stop new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and death. We can do that now," Ferrer, the county's health director, said in a statement. "It takes every business and every resident to purposefully follow public health directives and safety measures. Please stay home and leave only for essential work or essential services."

There are more than 7,800 people hospitalized with COVID-19 across the county, officials said -- 21% of whom are in the ICU.

In Georgia, about one in 15 residents has been infected with the virus, and more than one in 1,000 has died, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

About 91% of ICU beds across the state are occupied and 85% of all inpatient beds are occupied, according to estimates published by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Arizona health officials, meanwhile, reported just 8% of all ICU beds were available Monday. About 62% of people in the ICU are Covid-19 patients and 57% of the state's available ventilators are in use, according to the state's COVID-19 dashboard.

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