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US Covid-19 Death Toll Could Reach 534,000 By 27 Feb: CDC Forecast

The Covid-19 death toll could reach 534,000 by February 27, an ensemble forecast by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, which would amount to about one death for every minute of the pandemic, CNN reported.

The first death from the coronavirus in the US was recorded on 29 February, though two earlier deaths were later counted and the toll since had mounted to at least 450,681 people, data from Johns Hopkins University revealed.

US Covid-19 Death Toll Could Reach 534,000 By 27 Feb: CDC Forecast

Wednesday’s forecast of another 80,000 deaths this month comes in the backdrop of fears of transmissible variants sending the toll spiking even as health professionals seek to ramp up vaccinations.

US Covid-19 Death Toll Could Reach 534,000 By 27 Feb

According to the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr Anthony Fauci, the best way to prevent variants from dominating the pandemic was prevented the replication of the virus through quick vaccination and health measures to check the spread. 

Fauci told NBC News on Wednesday that currently, the US was not vaccinating at a rate fast enough to get ahead of the variants. 

According to New York City’s health adviser Jay Varma, the number of variants in the US and how quickly they were spreading could be difficult for researchers to track due the amount of genetic sequencing it took throughout the country.

He added, the safest thing to do was for them to plan on the assumption that there were a lot more cases than the variants they knew about.

According to Dr Ricardo Franco of the Center for AIDS Research at the University Alabama at Birmingham, given the unknowns about the variants and the length of time it would take to get the US at herd immunity threshold with vaccines, it was not the time to give up on masks.

He added the game was at halftime and what was needed was to keep pushing and not give the virus a chance to play well in the second half. 

Meanwhile, the fight against the virus is set to be joined by two more vaccines.

Researchers at the University of Oxford said in a preprint posted Tuesday that the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine showed 66.7% efficacy against symptomatic disease starting two weeks after the second shot.

They suggested further that the vaccine might also reduce virus transmission, rather than reducing the disease severity. 

Fauci told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie of the data that had not been peer-reviewed yet, that he certainly had every reason to believe the British researchers, but he would like to see the data himself. 

He added, if it was true, that it stopped transmission, that was good news, with another vaccine candidate in the mix.

The data suggested that the vaccine could cut transmission by as much as two-thirds, which was stunning discovery if true, according to Richard Horton, editor in chief of The Lancet, who spoke to CNN’s Becky Anderson on Wednesday.

The research is currently under scientific peer review by The Lancet. 

Further, a vaccine candidate from Johnson & Johnson had become the third to seek emergency use authorization from the FDA and was currently under review.

Fauci told NBC News that it could get the kind of emergency use authorization within a week or so.

Meanwhile, there have been threats of strikes and lawsuits following moves to get students back into the classroom amid the pandemic. 

But CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday that data was increasingly supporting the safety of returning to schools under the right conditions.

A new study by the Rockefeller Foundation showed that with weekly screenings of students, teachers and staff using rapid antigen tests, schools could cut their infections by 50% for high schools and 35% for primary schools. 

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