Coronavirus: As It Stands Right Now


Isabelle Morse

The United States has surpassed 441,000 deaths from COVID-19.

On Wednesday, January 28th, CNN aired their 25th Coronavirus town hall since the pandemic began, hosted by Anderson Cooper (CNN anchor) and Dr. Sanjay Gupta (CNN chief medical correspondent). Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Chief Medical Advisor to President Biden, joined them as well as the new CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, and the leader of President Biden’s Health Equity Task Force, Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith. 

Some places around the country are doing well while some are not as lucky. West Virginia has been leading the race, as they have already vaccinated 9% of their population compared to only about 6% nationally. The Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, said they have vaccinated over a million seniors, whom they made the top priority. The Florida Government has said they can do more if they had more supply. “But the rollout, Anderson [Cooper], here [in Florida], has been pretty bumpy,” said Randi Kaye, a CNN national correspondent. Senior citizens have been camping out overnight to try to get the vaccine and an appointment; hospitals cancelled appointments because supply of the vaccine did not show up. Struggles with scheduling, vaccine tourism (when international visitors come and get the vaccine), and many more issues have emerged all around the country. Governor Cuomo of New York has been “pleading” for more vaccine supply, saying that if he had it, he could vaccinate the entire first tier of the State of New York in about a month, but these priority individuals are currently only getting 225,000 doses a week. The California government is saying that in their state, it could take up to 5 months, with proper supply, to vaccinate their entire senior population.

In Europe, the vaccine rollout has not been going well, with the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines majorly delayed. In the United Kingdom, the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor said that 1 in 55 people in their population have the virus. They do, however, have emergency access to the AstraZeneca vaccine. They are also coping with the more recent strain of the virus. More than 7 million people in the UK have been given the first dose of the vaccine despite the issues of vaccine rollout around the rest of Europe. It is still bad, though, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson called more than 100,000 COVID-19 deaths a “grim statistic.”

The original COVID strain is not the only concern, as new variants emerge from around the world. The COVID-19 variant that was originally found in the United Kingdom has now been identified in at least 24 states in the United States. Additionally, the new variant in Africa is also at its worst, as researchers are calling it “highly contagious.” Despite the danger of the new variants, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that the vaccines should protect against the variants found in the UK and South Africa. Moderna said that tests show their vaccine offers protection against the new variants of COVID-19. The new strain found in Brazil has been concerning as well, and was observed in Minnesota, but Dr. Fauci said it is very similar to the South African variant, likely making the vaccine effective against it. 

Despite mass vaccination projects, the Defense Production Act, vaccine distribution and mask mandates and many more actions taken by the government, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky (appointed by President Biden) said, “It’s going to take a while for us to feel like we’re back to a sense of normalcy.”

The experts also talked about schools and what is needed to get children back to learning as they did before. Although schools are generally some of the safest places at the moment due to the enforcement of masking and social distancing, there are still federal plans for making schools even safer. Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that the government plans to supply schools with more needed resources as well as testing and funding for teachers and students, and vaccinations for teachers. 

“The most important thing is that everyone is wearing a mask,” said Dr. Fauci, though he says that some masks are preferred. For example, when wearing a cloth mask, it should be multi-layered. The new CDC director said that although N-95 masks are effective, they are very difficult to breathe in or tolerate for a long time. Dr. Walensky also thinks that the reason many people refuse to wear masks is not because those people don’t have access to them. 

Both of the experts stated that “right now is not the time to be traveling.” Vaccines are being distributed, but if people are traveling, they are essentially making the whole process of “getting back to normal” a whole lot harder. 

There are multiple companies and brands making the vaccines, and that brings the question whether or not one of the vaccines, whether it is the Johnson & Johnson, Moderna or Pfizer, is better than the other. To answer that, both Dr. Fauci and Dr. Walensky stated that they all have similar contingencies, regardless of age or race, although the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is about 66% effective while Moderna and Pfizer are in the higher 90% range. 

Turning to the federal government, President Biden has made COVID-19 a massive priority as America has lost over 441,000 American lives. Right now, the priority is to get the vaccine out there, into the arms of Americans. Dr. Marcella Nunez Smith, Chair of COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, said, “We have to make the vaccinations easy and accessible. That’s a key priority that’s built into President Biden’s national plan.” Wear a mask, social distance, and save lives.

Watch the whole CNN Coronavirus Town Hall here.