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U.S. COVID death toll tops 350,000 as hospitals fill up and vaccine rollout struggles to keep up

The COVID-19 death toll in the United States passed 350,000 over the weekend, after the deadliest month so far. More than 77,000 people in America died from complications related to the coronavirus in December.

One hospital in Alhambra, California, east of Los Angeles, has been so inundated with COVID-19 patients, it's set up tents outside to handle the surge of people coming in. The ICU is now full and the emergency room has been converted into a COVID ward, "CBS This Morning" lead national correspondent David Begnaud reports.

And public health officials say the country still hasn't felt the crush of cases expected from holiday gatherings. 

"It's terrible. It's unfortunate. But it was predictable that we were going to see the number of cases that we're seeing now. My concern is that it could get worse over the next couple of weeks," Dr. Anthony Fauci said on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday.

In Los Angeles, which is under a lockdown, officers on Thursday night raided at least six illegal parties they called potential super-spreader events.

Meanwhile, the situation at some Los Angeles County hospitals has grown so dire, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was called in to help with oxygen shortages.

"These buildings and facilities were not designed to have 100% ICU or people on oxygen," said Eleanor Encinas, a construction manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Also, the country's vaccine rollout is struggling to keep up. In both Texas and Florida, seniors waited in lines for hours to get their shots.  

"It's been a long wait," Nancy Lanzon said. "They should have been better prepared."

While in Tennessee, some camped out overnight, only to be turned away.

U.S. surgeon general Dr. Jerome Adams on vaccinations delay 06:59

According to the CDC, more than 13 million doses have been distributed in the U.S., but only 4.2 million have actually been injected into people. Both fall far short of the federal government's goal of 20 million doses by the end of December. 

Moncef Slaoui, the head of Operation Warp Speed, said it's up to the states, not the federal government, to effectively distribute doses.

"I don't think we are able to identify exactly which long-term care facility or which CVS store should be getting more vaccine or less vaccine. That has to be done with people that have granular knowledge of their population," Slaoui said on "Face the Nation."

Still, Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, where a new COVID-19 case is reported every six seconds, blames Washington for the lack of coordination.

"While Washington dithered, while they went on vacations, while they didn't pass a relief bill for seven or eight months, we could have been training out-of-work folks and students to be ready. We knew that the surge was coming in the winter," Garcetti said on "Face the Nation."

There are discussions with the FDA and Moderna about giving people between the ages of 18 and 55 half doses of their vaccine, which has been shown to have an identical immune response as the full dose. The move could potentially double the number of people who would be able to receive it.

"We need to let science lead the way," U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said on "CBS This Morning" on Monday. "Tony Fauci has said clearly that he does not think it's appropriate for us to eliminate the second dose or push it back at this point, but we are looking, again, at halving the dose."

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