The U.S. reported a single-day high in coronavirus deaths this week, with Johns Hopkins University tallying 4,327 fatalities on Tuesday. The harrowing number brings the country’s cumulative death toll to over 380,820.
The deaths come as the country sees a shift in vaccination policy to distribute more shots to wider groups of people in an effort to speed the process. On Tuesday, the Trump administration recommended states widen distribution plans to include people ages 65 and older, as well as those at high risk for infection. It said states should avoid reserving second doses for people who have already received their first jab, as there should be ample supply when needed.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the change in policy was made once the government felt confident in vaccine manufacturing and production. Hours later, speaking at the "Futures Forum on Preparedness," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said the country was "too rigid" in the initial rollout of vaccines.
Fauci said that too much emphasis was placed on categorizing and classifying people into different priority groups so that it prevented the country from getting vaccines into the arms of the public in the most efficient way. He said that while the U.S. is not planning to abandon the prioritization approach, he expected the coming weeks to see an increase in efficiency when it comes to mass vaccination.
Nationwide, states have stumbled in the rollout, with anecdotes of botched thawing processes and technology failures seeing non-priority people vaccinated before health care and other front-line workers in places like New York.
In addition to the fatalities reported on Tuesday, the country also added 215,805 new cases of coronavirus as officials plead with the public to remain vigilant about practicing public health measures. More states have reported confirmed cases of the U.K. variant that is said to be more transmissible than the original coronavirus identified at the start of the pandemic, but it is not believed to be more virulent.
Pfizer and BioNTech, as well as top experts, have voiced confidence in the currently approved vaccines’ ability to combat the new variant, and the CEO of Gilead Sciences, the maker of remdesivir, said that the antiviral should also remain effective.