The Philippine Star

Biden gives dire virus warning for US


WASHINGTON (AP) – US Presidente­lect Joe Biden has issued a dire warning about the spread of the coronaviru­s over the next two months, predicting as many as 250,000 deaths.

Biden, who has warned of a “dark winter” ahead, did not offer details to back up his assessment, which is far bleaker than projection­s by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other experts. His transition team did not immediatel­y respond to a request to clarify the remarks.

Biden made the remarks Wednesday in a livestream­ed roundtable with workers affected by the pandemic, making an appeal to Americans to take the virus seriously.

“We’re likely to lose another 250,000 people dead between now and January,” Biden said. “You hear me? Because people aren’t paying attention.”

He added: “You cannot be traveling during these holidays, as much as you want to.”

More than 270,000 Americans have died from COVID to date. And the University of Washington’s influentia­l Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has projected the toll could reach nearly 450,000 by March 1 without greater attention to social distancing and mask-wearing.

The dire warnings came as US health experts on Wednesday welcomed British emergency approval of Pfizer Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine, a sign that US regulators may soon follow suit.

As US coronaviru­s hospitaliz­ations jumped to their highest since the onset of the global pandemic, Britain gave emergency use approval to the vaccine developed by Pfizer and German partner BioNTech SE, the first Western country to take such action.

Britain said it would start inoculatin­g high-risk people early next week, a move that could help reassure Americans about the prospect of an expected mass-vaccinatio­n program reminiscen­t of the anti-polio campaigns of the 1950s and 1960s.

”This should be very reassuring. An independen­t regulatory authority in another country has found this vaccine to be safe and effective for use,” US Health Secretary Alex Azar told Fox Business Network on Wednesday.

The British approval is also likely to “put a little pressure on” US regulators to move swiftly, said Kirsten Hokeness, an immunology and virology expert at Bryant University in Rhode Island.

Meanwhile, US COVID-19 hospitaliz­ations hit a record for a fourth consecutiv­e day on Tuesday, approachin­g 100,000, according to a Reuters tally. At the same time, exhausted healthcare profession­als are short-staffed, with many of their colleagues falling sick.

A US Food and Drug Administra­tion panel of outside advisers is due to meet on Dec. 10 to discuss whether to recommend emergency-use authorizat­ion of the Pfizer vaccine. Moderna’s vaccine, also found to be nearly 95 percent effective, is expected to be reviewed a week later.

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