About 19.1 million coronavirus vaccine doses have been administered in the U.S. out of the nearly 40 million distributed as the new Biden administration ramps up inoculation efforts.
Dr. Steven McDonald, a New York-based emergency medicine physician, described the current situation as a battle between the vaccine rollout and coronavirus continuing to spread throughout the population.
“It’s difficult to say which of these forces is going to win out more quickly,” McDonald said on Yahoo Finance Live (video above). “I would say as of now, the virus is winning. The vaccine rollout is so far behind where we need it to be.”
The country recently surpassed 400,000 COVID deaths earlier this week, and public health officials expect another surge of cases as a newer, most contagious coronavirus strain becomes dominant in the U.S.
The Biden administration’s goal is to vaccinate 1 million Americans a day throughout the first 100 days of Biden’s presidency. President Biden is reportedly planning on invoking the Defense Production Act in order to ramp up production of the vaccines.
“Beefing up the vaccine supply chains is going to be key in the fight against this,” McDonald said.
‘It's hard to say anything’s under control’
The incoming director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Rochelle Walensky, warned that there are “dark weeks ahead” for the country, and predicted the U.S. will cross the 500,000 death count by mid-February. McDonald echoed a similar sentiment.
“As long as the numbers in the United States continue to remain 100,000, 200,000 people being affected every day, it's hard to say anything’s under control,” McDonald said. “Even as things trend in the right directions, the magnitude of those numbers suggest that this is very much out of our control.”
He added: “I really think a vaccine is going to be the only thing that can sort of rein it in because we have public health measures in place that seem to not be working so far.”
The coronavirus spread hasn’t discriminated based on geographic location — California is facing an overwhelming number of cases just like the Dakotas and parts of the Northeast. Several of the states seeing surges have had mask mandates and other restrictions in place, but they haven’t been as effective in recent months as more people gather indoors due to cooler weather.
“In terms of stopping the spread and what individuals can do, the overwhelming source of spread is what’s called ‘living room spread,’” McDonald said. “This is when you have people over who you presume are safe, but actually have had an exposure, are infected, even if they may not be showing signs of symptoms. That’s how this really spreads.”
Public health experts attributed holidays surge in cases largely to indoor gatherings. If that trend continues, McDonald said, the U.S. is going to be forced to continue restrictions throughout the year until the vaccine rollout is complete.
“Until we can somehow get a handle on that, which would mean regulating individual behavior, we’re really not going to have a handle on the transmissibility of this,” McDonald said, adding: “I don’t have a crystal ball but if rates continue as they are, I think [we’ll be] remaining in isolation and under these public health restrictions for the rest of the year. That said, hopefully we’re learning from our errors and we’ll have a much more effective rollout in the spring.”
Adriana is a reporter and editor covering politics and health care policy for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @adrianambells.