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Millions Wait on Vaccinations as COVID-19 Death Toll Grows

Image Source:  (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Image Source: (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

The U.S. is in a race against time to get Americans vaccinated against COVID-19, especially now that more contagious mutations of the virus are spreading rapidly across the country.

"I believe we should be treating every case as though it's a variant," said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control. 

Cases of the South African variant first detected in South Carolina are now in Maryland. California and Minnesota confirmed cases of the Brazilian variant, and the UK variant is already in 30 states.

"We may never know exactly where these folks got it. But the important thing to remember is what we're focused on is preventing further spread. We want to stop any future spread of it," said Dr. Brannon Traxler, interim director of Public Health at the SC Dept. of Health and Environmental Control. 

In January alone, 90,000 Americans lost their lives to COVID-19. Stopping the spread means getting people vaccinated but that effort isn't exactly going smoothly. 

The CDC says 50 million vaccine doses have been distributed, however, only 29 million shots were administered. Long lines, sign-up errors, and low supplies all contribute to the problem. But a third option could soon be available.

Johnson & Johnson is expected to request emergency use authorization as early as next week for its new, one-dose vaccine. 

"The data look robust enough that they likely will go ahead with it, which means probably by sometime mid to end February, we start to be getting some doses in," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Unlike Pfizer and Moderna's vaccines, Johnson & Johnson's doesn't need to be stored at sub-zero temperatures.

Meanwhile, starting Monday night, the CDC is imposing a new nation-wide mask mandate on all public transportation, and threatening fines for anyone who doesn't comply. 

When it comes to air travel, anyone flying into the US from another country must have a negative test, and there's now talk about implementing the same requirement for domestic flights. Airlines are pushing back against the possibility.

President Biden is calling on Congress to pass his $1.9 trillion relief package, which includes billions of dollars for a national vaccination program. The president and Congressional Democrats say they're ready to move ahead, with or without GOP support.
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