Updated at 8:50 p.m. ET on December 17, 2020.
This week, American health-care workers started receiving their first doses of a new COVID-19 vaccine. Early data have shown that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is safe and highly effective, reaching 95 percent efficacy about a week after the second of two doses. The second COVID-19 vaccine under evaluation for use in the United States is expected to receive an FDA emergency use authorization as soon as tomorrow.
COVID-19 vaccine doses won’t arrive in many U.S. nursing homes until next week or the week after that, but a few residents in West Virginia and Florida got their first shot this week. While staff and residents in nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities wait for doses to arrive, 863 more U.S. facilities reported outbreaks than in the previous week, and known cases of COVID-19 in long-term-care facilities are high and rising. Vaccinations in these facilities have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives over the next few months: In the past seven days, states reported more than 5,000 deaths linked to long-term-care facilities.
In the United States as a whole, cases rose only slightly this week (Thursday, December 10, through Wednesday, December 16) compared with the previous week’s numbers, which included Thanksgiving reporting backlogs. Hospitalizations continue to climb, and deaths are rising across the country, reflecting the high cases and hospitalizations we’ve seen since early November. For the second week in a row, more COVID-19 deaths were reported in the United States than at any other time in the pandemic. Yesterday alone, states and territories reported 3,448 COVID-19 deaths, 25 percent more than were reported on the worst day of the spring surge.*