As the lives lost to COVID-19 sped past 400,000, the raging virus has become the leading cause of death in the United States. And as President Joe Biden assumed office Wednesday during a rampaging pandemic, states are clamoring for more vaccine doses as vials run out across the country in major cities including New York and San Francisco.
The disease is a "once-in-a-century virus that silently stalks the country. It's taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War II," the new president said at his inauguration. Biden promised victory over the pandemic, but warned "we're entering what may be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus."
The numbers certainly support that dire prediction.
As of this week, more than 100,000 Americans have died in little more than a month, health officials announced, meaning a life is lost to the virus every 26 second in this country.
Because the U.S. has a relatively large population, the COVID-19 mortality rate is lower than several other nations. But America's death toll of more than 400,000 is nearly double Brazil's deaths, and four times the number in Britain.
Biden has pledged to vaccinate 100 million citizens during his first 100 days in the White House, but how that will happen remained unclear this week as supplies dried up while Americans scurried to get immunizations.
On Tuesday, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said vials were close to running out in the nation's biggest city without a major supply shipment.
"We will have to cancel appointments and no longer give shots after Thursday for the remainder of the week," he said. San Francisco's health department said it will run out by Thursday as well.
One year ago, the first recorded U.S. case of coronavirus occurred in Snohomish County, Washington. Since then, COVID-19 his has hit every American county and infected one in four people.
A study released Wednesday found that infectious coronavirus particles can spread farther than six feet within seconds in areas with little ventilation. The British research also found that someone with COVID-19 releases more particles during 30 seconds of speaking than via a short cough.
In poorly ventilated areas, those infectious particles can linger for an hour, said researchers at the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London, in a reported published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A.
Biden's first duties as president are expected to include issuing a facemask mandate on federal land and in federal buildings. He has also proposed a $1.9 trillion coronavirus spending package to speed vaccine distribution and to bolster the economies of state and local governments.
Also on Wednesday, the country's largest online retailer offered to help delivery of inoculations.
“As you begin your work leading the country out of the COVID-19 crisis, Amazon stands ready to assist you in reaching your goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans in the first 100 days of your administration,” Dave Clark, CEO of Amazon’s worldwide consumer business, wrote in a letter, Reuters reported.
But first, the incoming leaders of the United States called for a moment of reflection.
"We gather tonight, a nation in mourning, to pay tribute to the lives we lost," Kamala Harris, now the nation's vice president, said at a solemn gathering Tuesday night to honor the dead. "For many months, we have grieved by ourselves. Tonight we grieve together."