The virus is surging in several states, with California hit particularly hard, reporting on Thursday a record two-day total of 1,042 coronavirus deaths. Skyrocketing caseloads there are threatening to force hospitals to ration care and essentially decide who lives and who dies.
"Folks are gasping for breath. Folks look like they're drowning when they are in bed right in front of us," said Dr. Jeffrey Chien, an emergency room physician at Santa Clara Valley Regional Medical Center, urging people to do their part to help slow the spread. "I'm begging everyone to help us out because we aren't the front line. We're the last line."
Meanwhile, the number of Americans who have gotten their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine climbed to at least 5.9 million Thursday, a one-day gain of about 600,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hundreds of millions will need to be vaccinated to stop the coronavirus.
About 1.9 million people around the world have died of the virus, more than 360,000 in the U.S. alone. December was by far the nation's deadliest month yet, and health experts are warning that January could be more terrible still because of family gatherings and travel over the holidays.
A new, more contagious variant is spreading around the globe and in the U.S. Also, it remains to be seen what effect the thousands of supporters of President Donald Trump who converged this week in Washington, many of them without masks, will have on the spread of the scourge.