December now deadliest month of the pandemic in the U.S.

(CNN) – The authorization of two coronavirus vaccines has offered hope the end of the pandemic might be near. But with a near-record number of hospitalizations, experts fear the New Year could usher in the deadliest phase yet.

A heartbreaking milestone Saturday in the United States the coronavirus pandemic has now killed one out of every 1,000 people.

The number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. Saturday hit 331,000.

Also Saturday, data from Johns Hopkins University showing that December is now the deadliest month in the United States since the pandemic began.

More than 63,500 people in the U.S. alone have died this month from COVID.

A faster-spreading COVID-19 variant that originated in the U.K. is now appearing in other countries and experts are trying to figure out how that will impact the current vaccines.

Dr. William Schaffner, Professor of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said, “The studies are underway but, so far, the predictions are that the vaccine will work against these new strains, perhaps not quite as effectively as the old strains but those data are not here yet.”

In California, the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California regions both have 0% ICU capacity, a press release from the California Department of Public Health said Saturday.
Some good news: Michigan’s COVID-19 hospitalizations and daily coronavirus-associated deaths have continued to decline since mid-December, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard and hospital bed tracking webpage.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday posted new guidance for people with certain underlying medical conditions who are at increased risk for more severe COVID-19. The guidance addresses people with weakened immune systems and autoimmune conditions, among other underlying conditions. They “may receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine,” according to the recommendations, provided they have not had a severe allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in the vaccine.

However, people with HIV should be aware of “limited safety data” on the use of COVID-19 vaccinations and could experience a weakened immune response if they choose to take the vaccine.
Nearly 2 million coronavirus vaccine doses have been administered in the United States, according to the CDC.

Health experts say both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines require two doses to achieve about 95% efficacy. Even then, they say it’s important to stay vigilant.

Dr. Esther Choo, CNN medical analyst and Professor of Emergency Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University, said, “We have to act like even with vaccine in our system, we have to act like we still can carry it and pass it on to other people, so face masks, hand washing, social distancing will still be a very important part of pandemic control until we know better.”

Because of the holidays and the virus’ incubation time, hospitals and state governments are bracing for the surge to continue into January and February, one year after the start of the pandemic.

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