“People are going indoors, they’re not minding the three W’s,” Health and Human Services secretary, Alex Azar, told Fox News’s Chris Wallace Sunday. “Our advice is always the same. Wash your hands, watch your distance, wear face coverings.”
Only a week after millions traveled for the Thanksgiving holiday, the US has still not seen the full effects of a potential surge of infections fueled by the gatherings. And Azar told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos the holiday season might have more devastation in store.
“We’re worried about people and the behaviors coming up with Christmas,” he said. “We want to make sure everyone’s loved ones are there next Christmas, especially when we have so much hope of vaccines.”
States reporting records with the worse still to come
Before vaccines can be distributed widely to residents, states must contend with the surge on top of a surge experts say could be coming after the winter holidays.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said the state just underwent “our highest week to date.” The state reported ten confirmed deaths, a positivity rate of 9.75% and 2,567 new cases as of Sunday evening — the second highest for a Sunday in Kentucky.
While the rate of growth appeared to be slowing, he said, it is still unclear whether data will show “a Thanksgiving surge” later this coming week.
Vaccine chief hopes for drop in elderly Covid-19 deaths
Though there are still hurdles for vaccine candidates to jump, Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser of Operation Warp Speed said Sunday he hopes to see a “quite significant” drop in coronavirus illness and death among the elderly population quickly.
By the middle of March, he said, the United States should have vaccinated its highly susceptible population, which is about 100 million people, while the rest of the country “will not all have the vaccine in our arms before May or June.”
Both Moderna and Pfizer have submitted vaccine candidates to the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization. The FDA will meet Thursday to decide on authorization for Pfizer’s vaccine.
“I frankly expect them to approve it very quickly,” Slaoui, adding the prediction was based on the data he saw.
“The vaccine’s highly effective. The vaccine is safe. Its safety profile is comparable to that of many other vaccines that have been in use for years and decades. The manufacturing of these vaccines is very well done. The quality of manufacturing is excellent,” Slaoui said.
Manufacturing the vaccine has been “somewhat more complicated and more difficult than we planned,” Slaoui said, adding that scientists are six to eight weeks behind “an ideal scenario where we would have had 100 million doses by the end of this year.” The nature of fast-tracking a vaccine means more issues may arise, he said.
The vaccine, which will come in two doses — a challenge to produce and distribute in the necessary quantities — will likely reach healthy, non-elderly Americans with no known underlying health conditions in late March to early April, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
CNN’s Hollie Silverman, Naomi Thomas, Laura Ly, Ganesh Setty, Anna Sturla and Dakin Andone contributed to this report.