As 2020 nears its end, December has become the nation's deadliest month since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, claiming over 63,000 American lives.
According to the COVID Tracking Project, December surpassed the previous record — held by April with over 55,000 deaths — on Dec. 23, as people began traveling for the holidays and cases started to surge.
The New York Times reported that in the last week, the United States has seen an average of 188,908 new cases per day.
Despite warnings from the health experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) against traveling, more than 1.1 million people were screened at airports on Wednesday, the day before Christmas Eve, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
A daily tally from the TSA showed that officials screened 1,191,123 people nationwide Thursday, the largest number of people to fly since March 16, when 1,257,823 people were screened, TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein announced.
News of December's death totals comes after the nation felt a wave of hope earlier this month when the Food and Drug Administration approved two vaccines for the virus (one made by Moderna and one Pfizer-BioNTech). Both require two doses, each administered several weeks apart, in order to reach 95 percent efficacy.
On Dec. 14, a critical care nurse in Queens became the first New Yorker and among the first in the U.S. to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Ahead of the holidays, Dr. Anthony Fauci received his first dose of the Moderna vaccine on live television. And on Sunday, while speaking to CNN's State of the Union, he said he's had no side effects besides a brief ache in his arm after getting the shot.
"The only thing I had was 6-10 hours following the vaccine I felt a little bit of an ache in my arm that lasted maybe 24 hours, a little bit more," he said. "Then went away and completely other than that I felt no other deleterious types of effects."
Fauci, 79, added, "It was really quite good, it was even as good or better than an influenza vaccine. Nothing serious at all. Perhaps when I get the boost I might feel a little aching because the immune system will be revving up even more but I'll be getting that in about three weeks."
In his interview with CNN, Fauci also expressed concern that COVID-19 cases will likely continue to surge across the country after the holidays.
"The reason that I'm concerned is that we very well might see a post-seasonal, in the sense of Christmas and New Years, surge," he explained. "And as I've described it as a surge upon a surge because if you look at the slope, the incline of cases we've experienced as we've gone into the late fall and soon to be early winter, it really is quite troubling."
Noting that the country is at "at a very critical point," Fauci added. "If you put more pressure on the system by what might be a post seasonal surge because of the traveling and the likely congregating for the good warm purposes of being together for the holidays, it's very tough for people not to do that. And even though we advise not to, it's going to happen."
As of Dec. 27, over 19,092,600 people in the U.S. have been infected with the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic and at least 332,600 have died, according to a New York Times database.
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