CDC Director Robert Redfield gave a dire warning of a “rough” winter ahead as hospitals fill with coronavirus patients across the United States, he said in a discussion with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation on Wednesday.
According to data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project, COVID-19 hospitalizations nearly reached 100,000 on Tuesday, a point much higher than the spring and summer surges of the virus. There were nearly 2,500 coronavirus-related deaths throughout the US reported on Tuesday, marking levels not seen since the spring.
And with millions of Americans returning from holiday gatherings last week, the level of illnesses could increase in the coming weeks.
"December and January and February are gonna be rough times. I actually believe they're gonna be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation,” Redfield said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there have been 272,000 coronavirus-related deaths in the US since March. Redfield said his expectation is that the total could reach 450,000 in the next two months, which would place the average number of deaths per day between now and then at 3,000.
Despite the tremendous toll the virus has taken on humanity, Redfield also recognized there is an economic loss associated with the virus.
“Probably one of our greatest casualties of the pandemic this year was the impact on the business community, and on just general health care, the impact on our children’s education,” Redfield said.
But as virus cases are surging, public health experts say there is light at the end of the tunnel. The federal government expects to have 40 million vaccines prepared for shipment by the end of the month.
Moncef Slaoui, the chief adviser for Operation Warp Speed, said the goal is to have nearly the entire at-risk population of the US vaccinated by the end of Feburary.
'We will have potentially immunized 100 million people, which is really more or less the size of the significant at-risk population,” Slaoui said.