The U.S. is recording just under 3,100 deaths a day on average, down from more than 3,350 less than two weeks ago. New cases are averaging about 170,000 a day after peaking at almost 250,000 on Jan. 11. The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has fallen to about 110,000 from a high of 132,000 on Jan. 7.
Nationwide, about 19.3 million people, or less than 6% of the U.S. population, have received at least one dose of the vaccine, including about 3 million who have gotten the second shot, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 55% of the 41 million doses distributed to the states by the federal government have been injected into arms, by the CDC’s count.
The virus has killed more than 425,000 Americans and infected more than 25 million, according to Johns Hopkins University. Earlier this month, the CDC estimated the U.S. coronavirus death toll to rise to more than 500,000 by mid-February.
Health experts have warned the more contagious and possibly more deadly variant sweeping through Britain will probably become the dominant source of infection in the U.S. by March. It has been reported in more than 20 states so far. Other mutant versions are circulating in South Africa and Brazil. The variant from Brazil was detected for the first time in the U.S. in a Minnesota resident who recently traveled to the South American country, state health officials said Monday.
To guard against the new variants, Biden on Monday added South Africa to the list of more than two dozen countries whose residents are subject to coronavirus-related limits on entering the U.S.
Fauci said scientists are already preparing to adjust COVID-19 vaccines to fight the mutated versions. He said there is “a very slight, modest diminution” of the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines against those variants, but “there’s enough cushion with the vaccines that we have that we still consider them to be effective” against both.
Moderna, the maker of one of the two vaccines being used in the U.S., announced on Monday it is beginning to test a possible booster dose against the South African variant. Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said the move was out of “an abundance of caution” after preliminary lab tests suggested its shot produced a weaker immune response to that variant.
The vaccine rollout in the U.S. has been marked by disarray and confusion, with states complaining in recent days about shortages and inadequate deliveries that have forced them to cancel mass vaccination events and tens of thousands of appointments.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.