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The United States reached a vaccine milestone Wednesday as health officials reported that 200 million Americans are now fully vaccinated.
However, that news came as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are spiking again in some parts of the country.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the 200 million people who've gotten their shots represents just over 60% of the population. Meanwhile, nearly 49 million Americans have gotten booster shots.
White House officials noted that 12.5 million shots were given last week, the highest weekly total since May.
“And that's critical progress as we head into the winter and confront the new Omicron variant,” White House coronavirus adviser Jeffrey Zients said.
Getting more Americans vaccinated is essential as cases and hospitalizations have climbed in recent weeks.
Nationwide, new cases rose from an average of nearly 95,000 a day on Nov. 22 to nearly 119,000 a day this week, while hospitalizations jumped 25% in the past month, the Associated Press reported.
White House officials noted the U.S. administered 12.5 million shots last week, the highest weekly total since May, the AP reported.
“And that's critical progress as we head into the winter and confront the new Omicron variant,” White House coronavirus adviser Jeffrey Zients said, the AP reported.
Some states, notably in highly vaccinated New England, but also in the Midwest, are suffering some of the worst surges since the start of the pandemic.
Despite one of the highest vaccination levels in the country -- over 74% of the population fully vaccinated -- Vermont is coping with its biggest surge yet. In the last week, new cases per day are up 54%, and the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 has climbed 18%, the AP reported.
The virus continues to strike those who haven't gotten their shots: As of Tuesday, 90% of the COVID-19 patients in intensive care were unvaccinated, the wire service said.
“Obviously, it's not where we want to be,” Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday, calling the situation “extremely frustrating.”
Meanwhile, more than 400 people were in the hospital with COVID-19 in New Hampshire at the start of the week, breaking the record set last winter, the AP reported.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu directed hospitals to set up COVID-19 “surge centers” using space normally reserved for such things as outpatient care.
The current average of 1,600 COVID-19 deaths a day nationwide is back to where it was in October and the total death toll from the pandemic could reach 800,000 in a few days, according to the AP.
The coronavirus is like a wildfire, said Lawrence Gostin, director of the WHO Collaborating Center on Public Health Law and Human Rights at Georgetown University.
“You can clear a forest of the shrubbery. But if you leave some shrubs and trees standing, the fire will find them,” Gostin told the AP. “The virus will find you. It is searching for hosts that are not immune."
Robert Preidt and Robin Foster
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