Goodbye to January 2021, COVID-19’s Worst Month (So Far)

February 1, 2021
Frank Diamond

Concerning the possibility of a B.1.1.7 COVID-19 surge, Michael Osterholm, PhD, and a member of President Joe Biden’s transition team, does not mince words: “That hurricane’s coming.”

January was the cruelest month for COVID-19 in the United States, when more than 95,000 people died from the disease. To be exact, according to the COVID Tracking Project, 95,245 people died from COVID-19 in January, more than in any other during the pandemic.

Right now, there seems to be a race going on in the world, and especially in the US, between the number of people who are getting vaccinated and the spread of the new COVID-19 variants.

The vaccination rollout in this country has been bumpy, to put it mildly. President Biden wants to have 100 million people vaccinated in his first 100 days in office, but the supply might not be able to meet demand and there are also logistical problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 49,933,250 Covid-19 vaccine doses have been distributed and at least 31,123,299 shots administered.

As for the variants, B.1.1.7 in particular is said to be anywhere from 50% to 70% more infectious and possibly 30% deadlier. Scientists are still trying to determine if children are more vulnerable to B.1.1.7 than to the standard COVID strain. The COVID vaccines seem to work against B.1.1.7. The problem is that a COVID strain that’s more infectious means more hospitalizations and more deaths.

There’s a strain of COVID that emerged in South Africa—E484K—that has experts even more concerned, because it seems as if the vaccines are less effective against that strain. Modern technology allows us to create a new vaccine or booster shot in a matter of weeks, if that’s in fact what’s needed. We don’t have to culture them anymore. But as Kevin Kavanagh, MD, and a member of Infection Control Today®’s Editorial Advisory Board, tells ICT®, the main goal at this point is to stop the spread of the new variants because if they take hold there’s this problem: You have to, in Kavanagh’s words, revaccinate the entire world. “And if we keep having these variants coming about every six months, because we’re spreading this virus like wildfire, it’s going to be very problematic.

Michael Osterholm, PhD, is an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota and an advisor to President Biden’s transition team. About the coming B.1.1.7 COVID-19 surge, Osterholm does not mince words. “That hurricane’s coming,” Osterholm said yesterday on “Meet the Press.” Osterholm added” We are going to see something like we have not seen yet in this country.” That should be a wake-up call for everybody. But will it be?

Kavanagh tells ICT® that one of the things fueling the COVID surges is a lack of willpower on the part of our society. If we had tightly locked down in the first weeks of the pandemic, we would not be fighting for our lives now, says Kavanagh. And we can still minimize the spread of the COVID variants by doing the things we’ve been told to do all along: social distancing, hand hygiene, wearing a mask.

“We have the technology to do it,” says Kavanagh. “We just don’t have the willpower. I mean, we know how it spreads, we know how to kill it, we should be able to stop it cold in its tracks. It’s just people worried about themselves, rather than worrying about the community.”

Yesterday, there were 166,113 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the US, while 3604 people died from the disease, according to Johns Hopkins University. Overall, in the US, there have been over 26 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, while over 440,000 people have died from the disease since the pandamic began. In the world, there have been over 100 million confirmed cases of COVID-19. And, in the world, over 2.2 million people have died from COVID-19.