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COVID-19 was the leading cause of death in the U.S. this week, report says

CDC urges indoor mask use amid COVID-19 surge
CDC urges indoor mask use amid COVID-19 surge 03:47

COVID-19 was ranked as the leading cause of death in the U.S. this week, with 11,820, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. That's more than the number of Americans who died from ischemic heart disease (10,724), tracheal, bronchus and lung cancer (3,965), and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (3,766).

In the U.S., coronavirus cases have surpassed 14.3 million, and more than 278,500 deaths have been recorded, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. A model often used by the White House said the death toll could hit half a million by March 1 if the current trend continues. That same model said if Americans wore masks for the next four months, it could save 66,000 lives.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued new guidance of "universal mask-wearing" in all activity outside of the home. The CDC also recommends anyone who has been potentially exposed to the coronavirus, such as during travel or in a crowded setting, should wear a mask inside the home to protect family members.

In Illinois, the seven-day average death toll is higher than any other state – up nearly 14 percent over two weeks ago, according to the COVID Tracking Project. At least 11 states shattered their daily cases records with more than 217,000 new COVID-19 cases nationwide added Thursday, Johns Hopkins University reported. That amount could fill the University of Michigan's football stadium – the nation's largest – twice.

"Soon if it keeps going we are not going to have anywhere to put these people, we're just not," said  Jody White, a respiratory therapist at IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.

Meanwhile, as states scramble to meet Friday's deadline for Pfizer vaccine distribution plans, the shipments may not be enough to cover the first in line.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers is worried about vaccine delays after backlogged test and PPE deliveries, writing to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, "As vaccine distribution gets underway, our state cannot afford to have this pattern of failed promises repeat."

And still, Americans seem to be taking more risks. On Thursday night, at least 150 people, including Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, reportedly gathered for the New York Young Republican's annual gala. That prompted officials to shut the New Jersey venue down.

"It is beyond the pale that anyone would willingly endanger people in another state, never mind their own," said New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. 

Leticia Lara knows that danger first-hand. She survived COVID-19, but her 18-year-old daughter, who has special needs, did not.

"[I feel] like my world is ending," said Lara. "I feel broken, lost."

There is promising coronavirus vaccine news from Moderna. A new report shows that their trial participants still carried those protective COVID antibodies three months after their second dose. A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee is set to meet next Thursday to discuss emergency approval of the Pfizer vaccine and then a week later to consider the one made by Moderna.

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