James O'Brien 10am - 1pm
US coronavirus deaths drop as vaccine rollout picks up speed
25 March 2021, 07:28 | Updated: 25 March 2021, 08:46
Daily coronavirus-related deaths in the US have dropped below 1,000 a day for the first time since November as its vaccine rollout picks up speed.
Over 70% of over-65s in the country have received at least one dose of a vaccine and dozens of states are inviting all adults to come forward for a Covid-19 jab - or are planning to in the coming weeks.
The White House says 27 million doses of both the one-shot and two-shot jabs will be delivered next week - more than triple the weekly number when President Joe Biden entered office in January.
The new Biden administration hit its '100 million shots in 100 days' goal early and hinted at renewing the target to 200 million doses in 200 days.
The number of older adults showing up in emergency rooms with the virus is also significantly down.
Deaths per day in the US from Covid-19 have dropped to an average of 940, down from an all-time high of over 3,400 in mid-January.
But top Government's infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci said on Wednesday he was not ready to declare victory.
"I'm often asked, are we turning the corner?" Dr Fauci said at a White House press briefing, "My response is really more like we are at the corner."
"Whether or not we're going to be turning that corner still remains to be seen."
He told reporters he was hesitant to celebrate early as the number of new cases remain at a stubbornly high level, at more than 50,000 per day.
The country on Wednesday surpassed 30 million confirmed cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, while the number of confirmed deaths now stands at more than 545,000.
It comes in stark contrast to the deteriorating situation in countries such as Brazil, which reported more than 3,000 Covid-19 deaths in a single day for the first time on Tuesday.
But public health experts in the US remain cautious over relaxing social distancing and other restrictions, fearing it could lead to another wave of the virus.
Dr Eric Topol, head of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, warned on Wednesday against states lifting mask mandates, air travel roaring back and huge spring break crowds partying in Florida.
"We're getting closer to the exit ramp," Dr Topol said, "all we're doing by having reopenings is jeopardising our shot to get, finally, for the first time in the American pandemic, containment of the virus."
Meanwhile in Europe, where another wave of infections is leading to new lockdowns, a slow vaccine rollout on the continent has been caused by production delays and questions about the safety and effectiveness of AstraZeneca's jab.
But the UK has proved one of the most successful countries in the world so far in its vaccine rollout, with more than 28.6 million first doses delivered.