Stephanie Cal (L), a nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, is inoculated with the COVID-19 vaccine in New York, the United States, on Dec. 14, 2020. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)
The distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine does not mean people should drop "normal, standard public health measures." Americans should not expect life to return to normal until the second half of 2021 or possibly in the months beyond, U.S. top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said.
WASHINGTON, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- While the start of U.S. COVID-19 vaccination campaign this week has brought hope to the public, cases and hospitalizations continue to soar across the country.
The United States started its COVID-19 vaccine rollout nationwide on Monday as death toll of the pandemic topped 300,000.
U.S. federal officials leading the vaccine effort said earlier this week that they expect 20 million people to get the first of two required doses by the end of the year.
Frontline health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities are the first groups to get the vaccine, based on recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The immunization campaign is expected to expand in the days ahead. In the meantime, however, the United States has averaged about 211,000 new coronavirus cases every day.
Health care workers roll a patient into the emergency room at Maimonides Medical Center during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Brooklyn borough of New York, United States, Dec. 14, 2020. (Photo by Michael Nagle/Xinhua)
On Tuesday the country reported 201,776 new cases and nearly 3,000 deaths from COVID-19, according to data updated by the CDC on Wednesday.
The country also recorded all-time high COVID-19 hospitalizations, with 112,816 cases as of Tuesday, the 10th day in a row breaking the previous day's record, according to The COVID Tracking Project.
Strained hospitals across the country continue to see a surge of patients and their available bed numbers dwindle.
Los Angeles County reported fewer than 100 intensive care unit beds remaining, an alarming new low for the nation's most populous county.
"We must all work together to prevent as many hospitalizations and deaths as possible while we wait for the COVID-19 vaccine to be widely available," Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement.
Vaccinations will ultimately change the country's grim trajectory, but not for a few months, public health experts warned.
People are seen at a COVID-19 testing center at the San Fernando regional park in Los Angeles County, the United States, Dec. 8, 2020. (Xinhua)
Until then, people should wear masks, avoid crowded indoor spaces and minimize travels during holiday season, experts stressed.
Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, warned earlier this week that the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine does not mean people should drop "normal, standard public health measures."
"A vaccine right now is not a substitute for the normal, standard public health measures of wearing a mask, keeping your distance, avoiding congregate crowded sections, and particularly indoors. It's not a substitute, it complements it," Fauci said in an interview with MSNBC.
Fauci said Americans should not expect life to return to normal until the second half of 2021 or possibly in the months beyond.
The United States has recorded more than 16.9 million cases with over 306,600 related deaths as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the real-time count kept by Johns Hopkins University. ■