As the world watched the U.K. administer the first coronavirus vaccines on Tuesday, the U.S. marked a milestone of its own, albeit a grim one: according to the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus data, the country has surpassed 15 million cases of COVID-19.
The U.S. also saw over 1,400 coronavirus-related deaths Monday into Tuesday, adding to a particularly sharp rise in fatalities over the last week.
The sobering numbers come as the nation waits for the FDA to meet on Thursday regarding Pfizer and BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine and the companies’ application for emergency use authorization. In documents published ahead of the meeting, the agency signaled that the vaccine does meet EUA requirements.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump held an Operation Warp Speed summit during which he applauded his administration’s efforts in speeding along the development and production of a vaccine, which many said could not be done in such a limited timeframe.
Trump also signed an executive order “to ensure that American citizens have first priority to receive American vaccines” before sending supplies to other countries. Trump said the order would ensure every American who wants a vaccine would have access to one.
Pfizer has signaled that it is ready to ship vaccines within hours of the FDA’s expected approval on Thursday.
However, officials have warned that distributing the limited supply of vaccine to high-priority populations such as health care workers and those who live in long-term care facilities should not be the end of the public health measures, as it’s a long way to go before the pandemic is declared over.
States across the country are publishing harrowing data regarding case increases and strained hospital systems. In California, Gov. Newsom imposed new stay-at-home orders, which were criticized by some but touted by Dr. Anthony Fauci who said it will help rescue strained hospitals.
“They were right at the cusp of having the hospital beds be overrun in the sense of not having enough beds, not having enough trained personnel, particularly intensive care,” Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said during an interview with Milken Institute’s 2020 Future of Health Summit.
He went on to suggest that other states were in similar situations but stopped short of identifying which ones.
Fox News’ Kayla Rivas contributed to this report.