ACROSS AMERICA — “COVID-19 is real,” Chris Miller, a 22-year-old student at Austin College in Sherman, Texas told KXII News 12 as he was recovering from the coronavirus back in October.
Just two months later, family and friends of Miller are mourning his loss. He died recently as a result of a long battle with the virus, the news station and others have reported. Miller is one of the 333,000+ Americans who have died as a result of contracting the virus.
Miller, who had asthma, was sent home from a hospital on Nov. 24, some three months after his first positive test. But his struggle to breathe soon continued.
Family and friends said he was doing everything doctors instructed, including getting up to move about. He had a surgery to address his lungs scheduled for Jan. 4.
“There were times when he would tell me ‘momma this is so hard, he said the pain is just so hard’,” his mother, Esteria Miller, said.
As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States has topped 19 million, one in 17 Americans have tested positive since the beginning of the pandemic, data from The New York Times shows.
The statistic is reported as unemployment assistance briefly ran out for millions of Americans and the government narrowly averted a shutdown.
Two federal relief programs under the CARES Act passed in April expired the day after Christmas. Research from Andrew Stettner and Elizabeth Pancotti of The Century Foundation, a progressive think tank, show about 12 million people left with little or no financial support after the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program that provided benefits to 7.3 million workers and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program that offered aid to another 4.6 million expired.
President Donald Trump signed an economic relief bill Sunday night that will provide a continuation of benefits for those affected, and provide $600 stimulus payments to all Americans.
Initially, it appeared Trump would refuse to sign the second coronavirus economic relief bill that passed easily in both the House and Senate. Trump has said the bill should have included one-time payments of $2,000 to all Americans instead of $600.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday night she hopes Republicans will back a separate, standalone bill that would provide an additional $2,000 to all Americans.
Meanwhile, more and more Americans are saying they are eager to receive one of two newly-approved vaccines.
In polls by Gallup, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Pew Research Center, the portion of people saying they are now likely or certain to take the vaccine has grown from about 50 percent this summer to more than 60 percent, and in one poll 73 percent — a figure that approaches what some public health experts say would be sufficient for herd immunity.
Currently, more than 2 million people have received the vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The vaccines have arrived as people in the United States are being hospitalized with the coronavirus than at any other point during the pandemic. According to the Covid Tracking Project, 118,948 people were hospitalized the day after Christmas with coronavirus-related illnesses.
California has become the first state to surpass 2 million confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to multiple reports. The milestone comes about six weeks after the state hit 1 million cases.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said hospitals are under "unprecedented pressure" and if current trends continue the number of those hospitalized because of the virus could double in 30 days. This prediction could prove catastrophic to already overwhelmed hospitals.
Things could get worse in the weeks following the Christmas and New Year's holidays. Although only a quarter of the number of people who flew on the day after Christmas in 2019 did so in 2020, a AAA forecast shows more than 81 million Americans are expected to travel by car alone from Dec. 23 to Jan. 3, The New York Times reported.
More than 1 million people were on airplanes two days before Christmas, a pandemic record, according to CNN.
At least 708 deaths and 70,905 new cases had been reported in the United States on Monday as of 2 p.m. ET, according to a Washington Post database. The Post's reporting shows new daily cases have fallen 12.9 percent, new daily deaths fell 5.3 percent and COVID-19-related hospitalizations are up 0.1 percent.
As of Monday 46 states and Puerto Rico remained above the positive testing rate recommended by the World Health Organization to safely reopen. To safely reopen, the WHO recommends states remain at 5 percent or lower for at least 14 days.
As of Monday afternoon, the United States had reported more than 19.1 million cases and more than 333,800 deaths from COVID-19-related illnesses, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.