- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 7, 2021

The coronavirus is on the rampage in the waning days of the Trump era, killing more than 3,000 people per day and sending states into a scramble to vaccinate people at stadiums, fire departments and elsewhere.

Arizona has emerged as a hot spot, with the most cases per 100,000 residents in the country over the past seven days, while the situation in Southern California has gotten so bad that responders in Los Angeles County told EMS workers to preserve supply of oxygen by delivering the minimum amount necessary to keep patients at 90% saturation.

Texas reported its first known case of a fast-spreading U.K. variant on Thursday, and U.S. hospitals are more taxed than ever, with more than 132,000 patients admitted for COVID-19 as of Wednesday.

Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services said they are still watching the virus, announcing an extension of funding through April for a federal partnership that supports testing at more than 3,300 retail pharmacy locations.

Also Thursday, HHS announced targeted relief for Arizona, where transmission is spiking beyond the Sun Belt surge that slammed the state over the summer.



The agency partnered with the Tucson Medical Center to administer antibody treatments at a temporary infusion center. The monoclonal antibodies can stave off hospitalization but haven’t been fully used because it is difficult to time the treatment correctly and set up an infusion.

“Like many areas across the country, Tucson and Pima County are seeing an increase in COVID-19 patients, and many of these patients have become severely ill and need hospitalization,” said Robert Kadlec, assistant HHS secretary for preparedness and response. “We have deployed a federal medical team to the infusion center to provide the therapeutic treatments which can keep people from becoming so sick that they need to be hospitalized, which will help reduce the stress on the hospital, particularly the ICU, and help save lives.”

Texas, meanwhile, said it detected the virus’ U.K. mutation in a Harris County man who hasn’t traveled recently.

“The fact that this person had no travel history suggests this variant is already circulating in Texas,” said John Hellerstedt, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services. “Genetic variations are the norm among viruses, and it’s not surprising that it arrived here given how rapidly it spreads.”

Experts are worried about the aggressive nature of the variant and another one from South Africa, though vaccines should still work against them.

A federal tracker says that of 17.2 million doses distributed nationwide, 5.3 million have been administered, although there is a data lag so the number is certainly higher. Health officials insist the effort will speed up as clinics get a better sense of their rhythms and how to schedule shots.

Federal officials have told states to move beyond top-priority groups — health care workers and staff and residents in nursing homes — if they cannot line up enough arms to use available doses swiftly.

“States not only can, but SHOULD aggressively expand vaccinations to other phases if current supply exceeds demand in phase 1a!” U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams tweeted Thursday.

Major cities like Philadelphia are inoculating firefighters who go on emergency medical calls.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis showcased a drive-thru vaccination clinic south of Tampa on Thursday as part of a push to move beyond frontline workers and get older adults immunized.

“They’re gonna knock out 700 vaccinations today,” the Republican governor said at the site in Bradenton.

Mr. DeSantis spoke as the older adults waited in their cars behind him to receive shots. The governor said frontline workers and EMTs will be served in a “walk-up” fashion.

He said he will keep pushing the federal government for bigger allotments of doses because they’ve set up enough infrastructure to keep doses off the shelf.

“Most hospitals have done their key frontline health workers,” Mr. DeSantis said.

He said he is putting a premium on vaccinating people 65 and older — there’s a lot of them in Florida — to reduce mortality and hospitalizations. COVID-19 tends to inflict the most harm on older adults.

The governor said Florida set up a random lottery to dole out appointments as each block of doses comes in, so people don’t feel like they need to flood the state’s web portal and sign up first.

Earlier this week, Florida converted Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens from a testing center to a vaccine site that will do at least 1,000 shots per day once it is fully operable.

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