The United States witnessed more deaths from COVID-19 over the course of a single 24-hour period this week than it has seen at any other point during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to numbers from Johns Hopkins University, 3,656 individuals in the U.S. died from COVID within a 24-hour time frame ending on Wednesday. On top of that, more than 247,000 new infections of the virus were recorded, the highest single-day number yet since the beginning of the crisis.
Current hospitalizations also reached a record high, with more than 113,000 patients currently being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals across the nation.
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More than 307,600 deaths in the U.S. have been recorded since the start of the pandemic. Total documented infections of coronavirus exceeded 17 million individuals as of Thursday.
President Donald Trump, however, didn’t seem fazed by the grim numbers. On the day after the largest death toll in a 24-hour period was recorded, he bragged on Twitter about the stock market, and did what could be described as a premature victory lap about vaccines for the virus.
“All-time Stock Market high,” Trump wrote in a tweet on Thursday morning. “The Vaccine and the Vaccine rollout are getting the best of reviews. Moving along really well. Get those ‘shots’ everyone!”
While news of vaccines being distributed across the entire country is indeed great news, Trump’s encouragement for everyone to “get those ‘shots'” disregards one very important fact: there aren’t enough vaccinations at this time to go around, in large part because of the Trump administration’s failure to purchase enough of them.
The U.S. will only have enough doses of the Pfizer vaccine, for instance, to inoculate 50 million Americans between now and March. Although that’s a sizable number, it represents less than one-sixth of the entire population of the United States. For the coronavirus vaccine to be effective, most experts agree that at least 70 percent of the population has to have received it.
Even with the likely introduction of another option for a vaccine from Moderna, the U.S. isn’t likely to reach that immunity threshold for quite some time. If that vaccine receives approval from the Food and Drug Administration, only 150 million Americans — less than half the country’s total population — will be able to access either of the vaccines before June.
For a number of reasons, Trump has received poor marks from the American people, with recent polls demonstrating a majority of the country disapproves of how he’s handled the pandemic. The president has played a clear role in causing people to be skeptical (and reckless) about the virus, and has himself, through his personal actions, put thousands of lives at risk.
Though Trump reluctantly agreed to promote social distancing in March, he abruptly reversed himself not soon after and encouraged Americans to disregard those measures. At one point the president actually told residents of several states to “liberate” themselves from stay-at-home orders and other social distancing rules — in clear defiance of what his own public health experts were saying and in spite of the fact that the virus was still spreading uncontrolled in those places.
Trump himself refused to wear a mask in public spaces for several months, and when he eventually did, he still only did so sparingly. His reluctance to wear a facial covering seems to have been driven by his politics, as Trump once explained he believed masks were worn by people to express their opposition to him.
He also continuously downplayed the severity of the virus itself, even after he contracted it in October. After leaving the hospital and receiving world-class care that’s unavailable to most Americans, Trump wrongly compared coronavirus to the flu, and said it was something people had to learn to “live with.”
Trump did so in spite of the fact that, several months prior, he admitted in an interview with journalist Bob Woodward that the virus was deadlier than influenza. In fact, the president openly said to the veteran journalist that he purposely played down the threat of COVID in his public statements.
Those actions, and more like them, likely led to a large segment of American society to be skeptical of COVID-19, and to engage in activities that resulted in its further spread. Additionally, Trump has also unnecessarily exposed people to the virus through his numerous campaign rallies and other events that ignored social distancing rules and were largely conducted without face masks being worn by attendees. According to a Stanford University study, those rallies likely resulted in tens of thousands of coronavirus cases across the country on their own, including at least 700 deaths.
The pandemic is likely to continue to infect and result in the deaths of thousands of Americans in the coming months. According to modeling from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, around 153,000 more Americans are projected to die from COVID between now and March 1, even accounting for the vaccines. If masks are worn universally during that time, however, there could be close to 37,000 fewer deaths.