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Covid-19 vaccination plan 'not working,' former FDA official warns

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen reports on vaccine hesitancy among some healthcare workers, a new challenge for distributing the coronavirus vaccine as cases continue to increase throughout the US.

Posted: Jan 11, 2021 2:51 PM
Updated: Jan 11, 2021 2:51 PM

With Covid-19 hospitalizations surpassing 100,000 for 40 days in a row, officials are trying to ramp up the pace of vaccinations across the United States.

"We really need to get this vaccine out more quickly, because this is really our only tool," Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

On Sunday, 129,229 people were in US hospitals with coronavirus, marking the sixth-highest number of the pandemic, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

Experts have long said the best combined defense against surging cases includes preventative measures such as masks and social distancing -- as well as widespread vaccination.

Nearly 9 million people have received their first doses of vaccine against coronavirus in the US and nearly 25.5 million doses of vaccine have been distributed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

As of Monday morning, 35.3% of doses distributed had been administered, compared with 30.2% on Friday.

Health officials had hoped to get 20 million people vaccinated by the start of the new year, but the administration of vaccines has met with delays and roadblocks.

"We need to acknowledge that it's not working," Gottlieb said Sunday of the vaccination plan. "We need to hit the reset and adopt a new strategy in trying to get that out to patients."

Gottlieb's warning came just days after the US crossed a grim threshold for the first time -- reporting more than 4,000 new Covid-19 deaths in a single day on Thursday. Since the pandemic began, more than 375,000 people have died in the US and more than 22.5 million people have been infected, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

More people, sites and online resources for vaccines

As the surge ratchets up infection, hospitalization and fatality numbers across the country, officials are working to make it easier to access vaccinations.

California, an epicenter of the pandemic in the US, added 49,685 new cases on Sunday alone, bringing the total number of cases in the state since the pandemic began to more than 2.6 million.

Starting Monday, the state will boost its vaccine rollout to include health care workers, nursing home residents and staff, and those living in congregate settings such as assisted living or shelters, according to new guidance from the state health department.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Dodger Stadium will become a Covid-19 vaccination site by the end of the week and will no longer offer testing after Monday.

So far, the state's vaccination efforts have struggled, and only about a third of the more than 2.1 million doses it has received have made it into the arms of residents.

In New York, more vaccination sites have opened, including more 24/7 sites in New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he's confident the city will reach its goal of administering 1 million doses by the end of January.

On Monday, New York state expanded the people eligible for the vaccine to include those 75 and older, first responders, teachers and school workers, public-facing grocery store workers, transit workers and people living and working in homeless shelters.

New Jersey will have a network of about 300 vaccination sites across the state to assist with its Covid-19 vaccination plan, state officials said at a news conference.

"Our objective and aspiration is 70% of the adult population in the state within six months, that's 4.7 million New Jerseyans," said Gov. Phil Murphy, speaking at Rowan College at Gloucester County, one of six "mega-site" vaccination locations.

The Georgia Department of Public Health has launched a Covid vaccine locator website in hopes of increasing access in the state that has administered the least vaccines per capita, according to the CDC Covid Data Tracker.

The website will not allow for scheduling but will provide contact information for people to schedule vaccinations once available, according to the release.

A deadlier pace than 2020

More than 28,400 new Covid-19 deaths have been reported in just the first 11 days of 2021, according to data from Johns Hopkins.

At this rate, more people could die from Covid-19 in January than in any other month of this pandemic. December had a record high of 77,431 deaths due to Covid-19.

On Sunday, the US reported 1,821 new Covid-19 deaths, along with 216,290 new infections, according to Johns Hopkins data.

In hard-hit Arizona, the crisis will get worse, said Joe K. Gerald, associate professor at the University of Arizona's Zuckerman College of Public Health.

"We should expect to set new records for cases, hospitalizations, and deaths over the coming weeks. Policy action is urgently needed to mitigate the worst possible outcome," Gerald wrote.

He also expressed concern about "the inevitable arrival of the more highly transmissible" strain of coronavirus that was first detected in the United Kingdom and has spread to at least eight US states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas.

"If it gathers a foothold, it will accelerate, lengthen, and deepen Arizona's outbreak," Gerald said.

On Monday, Arizona set a record with 4,997 people hospitalized for coronavirus-related reasons, according to the state's data dashboard. Before the winter, the state's record for hospitalizations was 3,517 on July 13, 2020. The state surpassed that record December 11 and the tally of patients has, with a few exceptions, risen every day since then.

Arizona recently opened a 24/7 site to administer vaccines. The operation at the home of the Arizona Cardinals NFL team is being overseen by the National Guard. Adjutant Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire said at a press conference more resources are needed to implement the idea across the state.

Biden gets second shot

President-elect Joe Biden received the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Monday at Christiana Hospital in Newark, Delaware.

He received the first dose last month live on national television as part of an effort by his incoming administration to reassure the country of the vaccine's safety.

The President-elect expressed his confidence in the vaccine and encouraged Americans to receive one as soon as it becomes available to them.

The incoming administration is planning to "carefully" ensure people get their second Covid-19 vaccine doses, according to Michael Osterholm, a member of Biden's Covid-19 advisory board and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

"The incoming administration is planning very carefully to make sure that that second shot is delivered on time," Osterholm said during a Washington Post Live event.

Meanwhile, a new analysis found that states are increasingly abandoning guidelines from the CDC and taking their own approaches to giving people coronavirus vaccine.

"Overall, we find states are increasingly diverging from CDC guidance and from each other, suggesting that access to COVID-19 vaccines in these first months of the U.S. vaccine campaign may depend a great deal on where one lives," the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, which studies health care policy, said in a report.

"In addition, timelines vary significantly across states, regardless of priority group, resulting in a vaccine roll-out labyrinth across the country."

Congresswoman tests positive

US Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, a New Jersey Democrat, said Monday that she has tested positive for Covid-19.

A statement from her office said Coleman "believes she was exposed during protective isolation in the US Capitol building as a result of insurrectionist riots. As reported by multiple news outlets, a number of members within the space ignored instructions to wear masks."

CNN has previously reported that six House Republicans were captured on video refusing masks offered by a colleague during the US Capitol insurrection. It's unclear whether Watson Coleman was in the safe location with those members.

On Friday, the CDC director said the riot would likely be a "surge event" that "will probably lead to a significant spreading."

"You had largely unmasked individuals in a non-distanced fashion, who were all through the Capitol," Dr. Robert Redfield told the McClatchy newspaper group. "Then these individuals all are ... going home all across the country right now."

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3074812

Reported Deaths: 35060
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles103873814416
San Bernardino2569141560
Riverside2510002676
San Diego2185552174
Orange2165092508
Santa Clara949051129
Kern87240572
Fresno83200968
Sacramento811831128
Alameda68649788
Ventura62774462
San Joaquin58843788
Contra Costa53349460
Stanislaus43121766
Tulare42186515
Monterey36464255
San Mateo32887309
San Francisco29502266
Solano25983107
Santa Barbara25405243
Imperial25333474
Merced24570316
Sonoma24184242
Kings19588148
Placer17490184
San Luis Obispo16056140
Madera13528151
Santa Cruz12461113
Marin11732159
Yolo10789138
Shasta9750123
Butte9528128
El Dorado788649
Sutter782879
Napa767244
Lassen519916
San Benito500346
Yuba499627
Tehama433244
Tuolumne340340
Nevada323474
Mendocino319232
Amador302431
Lake262531
Humboldt242725
Glenn194820
Colusa17969
Calaveras162123
Siskiyou145713
Mono11244
Inyo98329
Del Norte8672
Plumas5895
Modoc3853
Mariposa3464
Trinity3044
Sierra820
Alpine730
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Chico
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Thursday was the last fairly quiet weather day that we'll have in northern California as a series of storms will move our way through next week. Our first chance for rain and snow showers arrives Friday morning with a cold front.
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