CDC warns of new COVID strain; U.S. sets record for deaths, hospitalizations

CDC Issues New COVID-19 Vaccine Guidance for People With Underlying Health Conditions . The CDC released the new guidance on Dec. 26. According to the guidance, adults of all ages with “certain underlying medical conditions” that put them at an “increased risk for severe illness” should receive the COVID-19 vaccine. . The CDC broke down the specific groups and explained that there was “limited safety data” available for those with HIV or a weakened immune system. Information about the safety of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines for people who have weakened immune systems in this group is not yet available …, CDC, via statement . People living with HIV were included in clinical trials, though safety data specific to this group [is] not yet available at this time, CDC, via statement . The organization also highlighted individuals with autoimmune conditions. saying that they should get the vaccine, but understand that there is “no data” currently available in regards to the “safety” of the vaccine for them. . People who have experienced Guillain-Barré syndrome are authorized to receive the vaccine, and “no cases” of the syndrome have been reported following vaccination. . Those who have had Bell’s palsy may receive the vaccine, although it was noted that a few cases of Bell’s palsy were reported in vaccine trial participants. Those cases have not been concluded to be “caused by the vaccination.”. The CDC advised that those who receive a vaccine continue to practice COVID-19 safety protocols, such as wearing a mask and social distancing. Until experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, people who decide to get vaccinated should continue to follow all current guidance to protect themselves … , CDC, via statement

One day after the U.S. set records in coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned a new COVID strain could further impact hospitals already overwhelmed with patients.

According to the Associated Press, a rural Colorado man has been reported as the nation’s first patient with the coronavirus’ more contagious variant. He’s from a mostly rural expanse outside the Denver area and recovering in isolation, according to state officials. His condition was not disclosed.

The new, mutated version was first identified in Britain and found in several other countries.

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The variant is probably still rare in the U.S., but the lack of travel history in the first case means it is spreading, perhaps seeded by visitors from Britain in November or December, said scientist Trevor Bedford, who studies the spread of COVID-19 at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

CNBC first reported the CDC’s new concerns.

As 2020 entered its final hours, the U.S. set two more coronavirus records Tuesday, one of which had previously been set just a day before.

According to the COVID Tracking Project, the nation recorded more than 3,700 new deaths linked to the virus, as well as the most hospitalizations, with more than 124,600 patients. Tuesday’s hospitalizations broke Monday’s record of more than 121,000.

On Tuesday, President-elect Joe Biden criticized the Trump administration for the pace of distributing COVID-19 vaccines and predicted that “things will get worse before they get better” when it comes to the pandemic.

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“We need to be honest — the next few weeks and months are going to be very tough, very tough for our nation. Maybe the toughest during this entire pandemic,” Biden said during remarks in Wilmington, Delaware.

His comments came as the coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 336,000 Americans, with experts warning holiday travel and gatherings could precipitate yet another spike in virus cases even as the virus has already been surging in states nationwide.

Biden encouraged Americans to “steel our spines” for challenges to come and predicted that “things are going to get worse before they get better.”

He also went after the Trump administration over its vaccination efforts, warning that the project, dubbed Operation Warp Speed, is moving at a slower pace than needed. “As I long feared and warned, the effort to distribute and administer the vaccine is not progressing as it should,” he said.

Earlier this month, Trump administration officials said they planned to have 20 million doses of the vaccine distributed by the end of the year. But according to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just over 11.4 million doses have been distributed and only 2.1 million people have received their first dose.

CDC issues new COVID-19 vaccine guidance for people with underlying health conditions

At the current pace, Biden said, “it’s gonna take years, not months, to vaccinate the American people.”

President Donald Trump deflected Biden’s critique.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany issued a statement late Tuesday saying, “While partisan critics offer nothing but empty rhetoric to frighten Americans for political ends, President Trump delivers results.”

Biden, who takes office Jan. 20, said he has directed his team to prepare a “much more aggressive effort, with more federal involvement and leadership, to get things back on track.”

The president-elect said he would “move heaven and earth to get us going in the right direction.”

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He set a goal of administering 100 million shots of the vaccine within his first 100 days in office, but said to accomplish that, the pace of vaccinations would have to increase five to six times to 1 million shots a day. Even with that pace, however, Biden acknowledged it “will still take months to have the majority of Americans vaccinated.”

Biden acknowledged one of his challenges will be public skepticism about the safety of a vaccine. He has already been working to alleviate public concerns. Biden received his first dose of the vaccine on live television last week, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris received hers, also on television, on Tuesday.

Kamala Harris and husband Doug Emhoff receive COVID-19 vaccine

The president-elect has made combating the coronavirus pandemic a central focus of his transition work. He has pledged that one of his first acts as president will be to release a comprehensive coronavirus aid bill to Congress that will include funding for expanded vaccinations and testing, among other things.

He also has a COVID-19 task force working on ways to better streamline the government response to the pandemic and help turn the tide of infections. On Tuesday, Biden announced nine new members of his COVID-19 response team, including aides focused on vaccinations, testing and supply chain management.

Still, Biden warned that it would take months after he’s in office for Americans to see positive change in the course of the virus.

“Turning this around is going to take time. We might not see improvement until we’re well into March, as it will take time for our COVID response plan to produce visible progress,” he said.

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