U.S. coronavirus death toll tops 300,000

More than 300,000 people have now died from the coronavirus in the United States, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The milestone comes as the first Americans are receiving Pfizer’s newly authorized coronavirus vaccine, which the nation hopes will turn the tables in the fight against the virus. 

The vaccine’s arrival comes at a time of crisis. California, Texas and Florida have all reported more than 1 million cases each, and many states are warning that hospital capacity is running dangerously low. For the first time since the pandemic began, more than 3,000 deaths in a single day were reported last week — and the CDC has predicted that up to 362,000 people could die by January 2. 

Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb warned Sunday that coronavirus infections will likely peak in January, due in part to Americans ignoring warnings from health officials and traveling during the holiday season. 

“The pressure is going to be on the health care system, and we need to keep the health care system from getting maxed out,” Gottlieb said in an interview with “Face the Nation.” “They’re not going to see peak-burden on hospital resources probably until mid-January, late January.”

Local leaders have implemented drastic new restrictions in recent weeks to curb the virus’ spread. New York City shut down indoor dining as of Monday, and Mayor Bill De Blasio warned that the city could face a full shutdown in the weeks ahead. Leaders in California and other states have implemented curfews, closed indoor dining, and shuttered other non-essential businesses. 

Since the FDA authorized Pfizer’s vaccine for emergency use on Friday night, the company has been racing to distribute nearly 3 million doses to more than 600 locations around the country. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday hosted a televised update that saw critical care nurse Sandra Lindsay receive one of the first doses of the vaccine. 

Northwell Health Workers Receive First Doses Of Pfizer Covid-19 Vaccine
Nurse Sandra Lindsay receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from Dr. Michelle Chester at the Northwell Health Long Island Jewish Medical Center in the Queens borough of New York on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. 

Mark Lennihan/AP Photo/Bloomberg via Getty Images

“I believe this is the weapon that will end the war. This is the beginning of the last chapter of the book,” Cuomo said Monday. 

As CBS News previously reported, Pfizer has pledged to deliver up to 100 million doses of the vaccine by the end of the first quarter of 2021. A second vaccine from Moderna is also seeking emergency authorization from the FDA and could start rolling out next week.

A bipartisan group of legislators on Monday unveiled a pair of coronavirus relief bills designed to help American workers and small businesses survive the remainder of the pandemic. A $748 billion bill is expected to include Paycheck Protection Program funding, unemployment insurance and more money for vaccine development and distribution. A $160 billion bill, which is expected to face more resistance in the Republican-controlled Senate, would provide state and local funding. 

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