California set to top New York as state with most…

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SACRAMENTO, Calif – California was set to surpass New York as the U.S. state with the most coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, a grim reminder of the pandemic’s toll even as the vaccine rollout and a dramatic drop in new cases offer hope that life will eventually return to normal.

Fatalities from COVID-19 reached 44,495 on Tuesday in California, the most populous U.S. state. In New York, which was particularly hard hit in the pandemic’s early days, the total death toll stood at 44,693 on Tuesday.

Nationwide, new cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 continue to drop rapidly.

But in California as well as other states the improvement masks a continuing march of illness and deaths, which remain higher now than they were at the pandemic’s previous peak last summer.

Public health experts fear that a surge propelled by Super Bowl parties on Sunday, as well as the arrival of new, highly contagious variants of the virus may lead to another jump in cases before most Americans are vaccinated.

In an effort to speed the rollout of vaccines that are being counted on to stop the pandemic’s spread, President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced that his administration planned to increase the number of vaccine doses sent to the states, beginning on Feb. 15.

Part of the expanded supply will be sent to community health centers in an effort to improve vaccine access for the mostly poor and minority population that the centers serve, the White House said on Tuesday.

By Tuesday, about 33 million Americans had received at least one dose of vaccine to fight the coronavirus, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported.

“This vaccine is the weapon that will win this war!” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a news briefing on Tuesday. Ten percent of New York state residents have received the vaccine, he said.

The United States has so far reported 27.17 million cases and 465,440 deaths by midnight Monday. There were 79,805 COVID-19 patients in U.S. hospitals by midnight Monday, the lowest hospitalization number since Nov. 19 when there were 80,318 COVID-19 patients in hospitals. Part of the reason for California’s high death toll is the state’s huge population.

When considered in terms of per capita deaths, California, with 113 deaths per d100,000 residents ranks 32nd in the nation. By comparison, New York, with 248 deaths per 100,000, ranks second after New Jersey, which has had about 230 coronavirus deaths per 100,000 residents.

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