While hospitals around the country are still overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, healthcare workers have thankfully seen a dip in patients in recent weeks.
According to the COVID Tracking Project, hospitalizations linked to the virus in the U.S. stand at a still-elevated 88,000 — a figure that hasn't been that low since Thanksgiving.
During a briefing of the White House COVID-19 response team on Friday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that while the declining hospitalization rates were encouraging, they remain well extremely high and well above levels that the country saw last summer.
Hospitalizations linked to the virus bottomed out to under 30,000 by the end of September. However, cases began to spread in October as the weather grew colder and Americans moved gatherings inside.
By Thanksgiving, about 90,000 Americans across the country had been hospitalized with the virus, and the worst was yet to come. Millions of Americans traveled to celebrate holidays, facilitating the spread of the virus and resulting in what White House medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci has described as a "surge upon a surge."
By January, as many as 132,000 Americans were in the hospital dealing with the virus — and the fallout is still being felt. The COVID Tracking project reports that the U.S. still sees more than 3,000 COVID-19 deaths every day.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top expert on infectious diseases, added that declining hospitalization and case rates meant that it was more important than ever to stay on top of public health practices like uniform masking, physical distancing, congregating indoors and washing hands.
But now as cases, hospitalizations and deaths decline, medical experts are attempting to tackle a new challenge — vaccinations.
According to Bloomberg, the U.S. is currently distributing a seven-day average of 1.34 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine each day. While that pace would allow the Biden administration to reach its goal of distributing 100 million doses of vaccine in their first 100 days in office, officials are still exploring ways to speed up the distribution process further.
Tim Manning, the COVID-19 response team's supply manager, noted during Friday's briefing that the Biden administration has invoked the Defense Production Act in order to give priority to Pfizer in acquiring materials and ingredients to make its vaccine. Manning also said Biden has used the DPA to speed up the production of at-home COVID-19 tests and personal protective equipment.
Fauci reiterated Friday increasing the vaccination rate would also be the best way to fight the spread of new variants of the virus that are beginning to spread against the U.S.
As of Thursday, the CDC reports that there have been 611 cases of a variant first discovered in the U.K. that have been identified in 33 states. Officials believe that U.K. strain is more contagious, but it's unclear if it's more deadly.
The CDC also reports that five cases of a variant first found in South Africa have been identified in South Carolina and Maryland and that one case of a variant first discovered in Brazil has been identified in Minnesota.
The White House COVID-19 response team will provide another update on the Biden administration's response to the virus at 11 a.m. ET on Friday.