(REUTERS)

Nearly 77,000 Americans died from Covid-19 in December, by every measure the worst month of a pandemic that has killed more than 340,000 people in the US since the onset of the outbreak.

Every week of December saw more deaths from Covid-19 than any other week in the year, according to data collected by the COVID Tracking Project. The coronavirus deaths of 76,580 people in December surpassed the death toll from the year’s second most-lethal month of April by more than 20,000 lives.

On the final day of 2020, a record-high 125,379 people were reported in hospital for the coronavirus. More than 3,200 people died.

By the end of the first day of 2021, the US is set to eclipse 20 million confirmed coronavirus infections, based on projections from Johns Hopkins University.

The COVID Tracking Project has warned that year-end data is not likely to be an accurate measure of the state of the crisis, with nearly two weeks of holiday interruptions in data reporting showing a decline in cases, tests and deaths.

“Cases and deaths are once again rising, but given that New Year’s holiday weekend will also cause data disruptions, we aren’t expecting a return to normal reporting until closer to the middle of January,” the organisation said in its New Year’s Eve report.

But among all topline metrics for measuring the state of Covid-19 across the US, hospitaliations have remained the most consistent through the holiday lags.

The four largest states – California, Florida, New York and Texas – and more than a dozen states across the south all reported an increase in hospitalisations within the past week, though the sharp increases in states with larger populations have a greater impact on national numbers.

New daily infections remained above 100,000 throughout December; more than 6 million total cases were reported that month, eclipsing November’s 4.4 million infections.

The US rollout of two approved vaccines beginning in mid-December brought the promise of a chance to stem the tide of rising infections and overwhelming scale of death, but a federal promise to administer as many as 40 million doses of the vaccine, with the potential to innoculate 20 million Americans, fell significantly short of its goal.

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As of 1 January, 12.4 million doses have been distributed to state and local governments, and only 2.7 million doses of the vaccine have been administered, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

CDC officials said health systems are likely experiencing a lag in reporting and expect to speed up vaccine delivery in early January, but reports from across the US – with rules for distribution varying state-by-state – illustrate a turbulent rollout after months of planning.

President-elect Joe Biden, who will be inaugurated on 20 January, has promised to deliver 100 million doses within 100 days.

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